By Bill Moore
The Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce is once again offering affordable health care insurance to Chamber members.
The Central Vermont Chamber is a member of the Vermont Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (VACCE), the organization that is sponsoring a new product in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as The Affordable Care Act, brought changes in health care insurance beginning in 2014. Among the changes under the ACA was the elimination of Association Health Plans (AHP). The Chamber previously offered an AHP to our members.
In an AHP, small businesses, including self-employed workers, band together by geography or industry as if they are one single entity. AHPs create a larger risk pool, lowering costs and providing greater security.
In October 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13813, “Presidential Executive Order Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.” Included in the Executive Order was the directive that, “Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Labor shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law, to expand access to health coverage by allowing more employers to form AHPs.”
Those regulations were finalized in July. The Chamber, working with VACCE, began the arduous task of creating a new health care plan for our members in January. In addition to me, the working group consisted of Betsy Bishop, Shannon Wilson and Karen Winchester from the Vermont Chamber, along with Darcie McCann from the Northeast Kingdom Chamber, Ed Stahl formerly from the Stowe Area Association, Tom Torti from the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber, and Tom Scull and Jessi Jacobs from The Richards Group.
The health insurance that emerged has been dubbed “VACEplus Health Plans.” It was approved by the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) on Oct. 12th, and presents three different offerings and is available for businesses with 100 and fewer employees. The rates, as approved by the state are extremely competitive. Sole proprietors qualify for plans with premium rates as low as $507 per month. Larger firms will see plans starting at $596 per month.
There are three different tiers in VACEplus Health Plans. “VACE Advantage
100% H.S.A.” is the premier plan, followed by “VACE Advantage CoPay” and “VACE Advantage CoPay H.S.A.” All three of the plans include prescription drug coverage. The prescription coverage helps to save money through our pharmacy benefits manager, Express Scripts® (ESI).
Chamber members can sign up for any of the plans during the open enrollment period from Nov. 1st – Dec. 15 for plans starting on Jan. 1, 2019. Businesses who join The Chamber after the open enrollment period can enroll in a plan during the first month of their membership in the Chamber. Under the regulations, these plans are only available to Chamber-member businesses and are not available for individual subscribers.
We believe that the VACEplus Health Plans will be a significant benefit to members of Chambers of Commerce across the state. In addition to the health insurance, Chamber members are also eligible for low-cost dental insurance offered through Delta Dental and low-cost vision insurance offered through VSP.
In order to attract and maintain high quality employees, employers are offering enhanced benefit packages in addition to good wages. These three products, available exclusively to Chamber members, brings down the cost of offering those benefits.
Offering benefits such as these is only one way that Chamber members benefit by joining the Central Vermont Chamber.
Bill Moore is president and CEO of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.