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August 15, 2013
Bar offers private health insurance exchange

Enrollment begins October 1 for coverage beginning January 1, 2014

Beginning October 1, The Florida Bar will launch a private health insurance exchange designed to assist individual members and employer groups in securing health insurance coverage as part of the Bar’s Member Benefits package.

Member Benefits, Inc., the administrator of The Florida Bar Member Insurance Programs, recently introduced key enhancements to its existing health insurance program.

Decision support tools and live customer support will be available to help Florida lawyers determine their best course of action.

“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has created complex changes in the health insurance market for attorneys,” said Carlton “Duke” Fagan, who serves on the Bar’s Member Benefits Committee.

“The Florida Bar is fortunate to have the services of the provider firm Member Benefits, Inc. Shortly after the passage of the federal act, Member Benefits had the foresight to analyze this complex law and custom design a private health exchange that will offer Florida attorneys more choices and lower costs within the law than any other option that the committee has seen.”

In March 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, with the intent of making preventive care more accessible and affordable for many Americans. While some provisions of the law have already taken effect, many more provisions will be implemented in the coming years.

“We are very pleased that our members will have access to expert assistance from our Member Benefits provider when open enrollment begins,” said Randi Whitehead, who served as chair of the Bar’s Member Benefits Committee over the past year.

Whitehead said the private exchange is built on a custom technology platform coordinated by Member Benefits, Inc., and is available to both individuals and employer groups.

“We know that many big changes are coming in 2014, and we really wanted to make sure that all members would have access to expert guidance to assist them with navigating the changes in health care reform,” Whitehead said.

How It Works
Member Benefits, Inc., staff will initially assist members and their staffs in estimating whether they qualify for a premium tax credit through the federal government. Afterwards, the individuals are directed to the least costly source to purchase a health plan. If directed to the private exchange, individuals create an online account and shop for benefits for themselves and their families, choosing from a wide variety of health plans that compete for enrollment within the exchange. Decision support tools guide consumers to the best health plan for their needs. Members can also purchase dental, vision, life, and disability insurance at special pricing.

Employer Groups
Employers can create an account on the exchange, set a budget, and provide employees with a fixed amount of money (a “defined contribution”), Fagan explained. Employees use the contribution to purchase the coverage and options of their choosing. If employees chooses plans or mixes of benefits that cost more than the employer- defined contribution provided, they pay the difference.

The exchange technology guides employees through the selection process, using tools that give them greater visibility and control, which helps them weigh cost versus benefit, and select the plan that best suits their needs. This allows employers to set a predictable benefits budget and streamline administration, he said.

“Not only will it be easy for law firms to register as employers, it will be relatively simple and user-friendly for lawyers and non-lawyer staff alike to use,” Fagan said. “The Member Benefits exchange portal is the paradigm of leading edge, user-friendly online access. The portal has made a complex situation simple, compliant, and as inexpensive as possible.”

Member Benefits Chief Operating Officer Nicklaus A. Trefry said changes in the laws have allowed his company to bring something unique to Bar members that wasn’t available in the past.

“We are looking forward to helping members learn about and take advantage of the exchange,” Trefry said.

A series of webinars will be available soon to introduce the exchange and educate lawyers on how to participate. Members may call (800) 282-8626 to learn more or register for an upcoming complimentary webinar online at www.memberbenefits.com/floridabar.

[Revised: 09-15-2014]