ACRA eyes discount on insurance
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association is eyeing a new membership perk – discounted health insurance for member businesses that insure their employees through the Roaring Fork Valley Community Health Plan.The ACRA, as well as the chamber organizations in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, is exploring the ins and outs of filing the necessary paperwork to create an association health plan, according to Hana Pevny, ACRA president. It’s hardly a done deal, but chamber officials are expressing optimism. The move would require state approval, she said.The valley’s Community Health Plan was created in 1993, initially helping arrange self-insured plans for a handful of large employers. It was greatly expanded in June 2003, when the local nonprofit signed with regional insurer PacifiCare to provide competitive coverage for valley businesses that were struggling with the escalating cost of trying to provide insurance for their workers.Since then, at least 500 employers in the valley have signed up for the plan, offering the insurance to some 5,000 workers, according to Brad O’Neill, development consultant and plan manager with Denver-based Van Gilder Insurance Corp., which helped the Community Health Plan select PacifiCare as the carrier.”I think it’s been overwhelming, the popularity of the plan,” he said.The Community Health Plan has since been made available to individual purchasers – the self-employed, for example – and other products are either on the way or under consideration.Life and disability insurance, available through chamber membership, is being introduced, O’Neill said. While any valley business can opt to obtain insurance coverage through the Community Health Plan, only those that are members of their local chamber will have access to the life and disability plans, he said. It’s a benefit chambers will be able to offer to members. A discount on the cost of providing insurance through the plan is another perk chambers hope to offer. That’s what is now being explored.A chamber discount on insurance is something businesses inquire about regularly, according to Debbie Braun, vice president of business development for the ACRA.”It [a discount] is great for small businesses that have been struggling,” she said. “It’s a phone call I get from businesses one or two times a day.”How much such a discount would be worth, if it can be arranged, has not yet been determined. Chamber membership already comes with perks, from a break on worker’s compensation costs to the biggie – a discount on the cost of ski passes for employees. A discount on the cost of providing insurance through the Community Health Plan would be another such benefit, Braun said.Regardless of the fate of that effort, the Community Health Plan will be offering something new in April – a health savings account. It will allow individuals who carry the plan as their health insurance to set aside money, untaxed, for health-care expenses, O’Neill said.The plan’s administrators are also looking into how health insurance might be offered to seasonal resort employees who aren’t offered it through their jobs.”It may not be the greatest insurance, but if they’re hit with something catastrophic, at least they won’t be looking at a bill they’ll be paying for the rest of their life,” O’Neill said.Local hospitals and physicians participate in the Community Health Plan, and it can be purchased through local insurance brokers. For more information, see http://www.rfchp.com.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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