Following the Labor Department issuing its final rule on association health plans in June, three chambers of commerce are launching an AHP this month.
Taking advantage of a June Labor Department ruling that expanded association health plans to create more access to affordable health coverage for small businesses and their employees, three southern Nevada chambers of commerce have joined forces to offer an AHP to their members.
The Clark County Health Plan Association comprises the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, Latin Chamber of Commerce, and Boulder City Chamber of Commerce. According to a report in the Nevada Independent, members can choose among 10 plans offered by two UnitedHealthcare subsidiaries. Henderson Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Scott Muelrath said his organization began to explore entering the healthcare market earlier this year, after the Labor Department issued proposed regulations on AHPs.
“The cost of healthcare across the spectrum for small business has been a priority and issue for the entire community here in southern Nevada,” he said. “Knowing that and knowing the Department of Labor ruling was going to be coming out, we started some preliminary conversations with insurance carriers, so we were ready should the opportunity come about.”
Southern Nevada has become a testing ground for AHPs: Last month, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce announced that it was launching its own plan. Muelrath said his groups discussed a possible collaboration, but ultimately decided to take the lead with its own plan, which gave it the option to add more groups in the future.
“I think what was so unique for us was being able to take the time for a collaborative approach.”
Unifying the interests of multiple organizations presents some challenges, he said. “Aligning with other organizations certainly made the process a bit more difficult because you’re trying to balance different interests with these other chambers,” he said. “I think what was so unique for us was being able to take the time for a collaborative approach to creating an umbrella so that some of our smaller chamber brethren could also participate.”
Practically speaking, that’s meant that members of the Latin and Boulder City chambers have had to nominally join the Henderson chamber—while not creating a situation where the Henderson chamber was seen as poaching members from other groups.
“One of the challenges is the differing dues structures,” Muelrath said. “We’re all in southern Nevada, but as the sponsoring agency, any business that wants to participate in the AHP has to be a member at some level with the Henderson chamber. We didn’t want the other chambers to feel like we were taking their members, so they can stay with their parent chamber and then spend $200 with us to allow for access to the association health plan.”
Muelrath estimates that the AHP currently has approximately 2,000 eligible companies across the three groups’ members. He anticipates that the chamber will need to increase its staff to help manage the AHP, but it also plans to bring more chambers into the fold in the future.
“It would have been easier just to rush to market on our own, but that’s not the way we wanted to do it,” he said. “We wanted the AHP to really cover the entire business community, across all businesses models, types, ethnicities, and demographics, and that’s what we’ll be doing while we try to bring in a couple of other chambers.”