Chamber offering members insurance

BUCKHANNON — The Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce is offering members and potential members a new benefit to obtain group health insurance in West Virginia.

The insurance, offered through an agreement with The Health Plan, is an alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

Wendy Hill, director of the Elkins-Randolph Chamber of Commerce, said, “We are thrilled to be able to offer this benefit to members, and give other regional businesses an additional reason to join our chamber.”

Because the program is exclusive to chamber members, Hill said, “I think it’s really going to be huge to potential members, but also for the members that we do have.”

There are two local brokers for the insurance plan — Mountaineer Insurance Services and Allegheny Insurance Services, both of Elkins.

The Elkins chamber learned of the plan through the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, which entered into an agreement with The Health Plan to offer health insurance plans to chambers of commerce throughout the state, said Jonathan Kyle, of Mountaineer Insurance Services of Elkins.

The agreement has been approved through the state government.

“We started making it available last year in the fourth quarter of 2017 for enrollment effective Jan. 1,” said Erikka Storch, president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.

Storch explained once officials had the opportunity to provide the resource for Wheeling Chamber members, “the only real way we could make it be successful is to have it grow in numbers.”

“So, we welcome the participation of other chambers, and we feel like we have found a good product and a good idea and are willing to share that with them,” she continued.

Storch said she estimates that 10 chambers in the state are currently participating in the program.

For a number years, chambers have offered health insurance type products, she said.

“They’ve had the opportunity to offer group plans,” Storch explained. “Then there was a time when things had kind of changed with the ACA and prior to that with the supreme court ruling, so many chambers weren’t able to offer that, but now we have the opportunity through the MEWA (Multiple Employer Welfare Association) to be able to offer an insurance-type product.”

Members can choose from about 80 different plans with varying deductibles and co-insurance levels, she said.

The coverage is available for businesses with less than 100 employees who are members of a participating chamber of commerce, Kyle said, adding the plan won’t be the best choice for all businesses but noting a large number will benefit from the plan.

The plan will be able to keep costs down through advance underwriting of the group and economy of scale and the number of participants. Kyle said underwriting evaluations are designed to keep adverse groups out, thereby keeping costs consistent. Members should face a minimal cost increase every year, compared to wide swings in costs associated with other plans.