Starting Nov. 1, lawyers will be able to use a private exchange to shop for coverage to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
The State Bar of Texas has partnered with Member Benefits Inc. to operate the new Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange, says Tim Kelly, a State Bar board member and chairman of the board’s Insurance and Member Benefits Subcommittee. Lawyers, their employees and families, and law firms will be able to get health insurance through the exchange.
Kelly notes that the Affordable Care Act sets up public health-insurance exchanges that anyone can use starting on Oct. 1. People must have health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014, or pay a tax penalty under the act. He says public exchanges may offer one or two health-insurance providers, but the Texas Bar exchange will offer eight.
“What the exchange is going to bring is access to health care for all the lawyers in the state of Texas,” says Kelly, a co-owner of Fi-Mobile, a Round Rock software company. “It gives our membership more choices in health care in terms of providers.”
Member Benefits will launch a website Nov. 1 where lawyers can sign up, answer questions about themselves and see suggestions for health-insurance plans.
The options include co-pay plans, high-deductible plans and “non-qualified” plans, such as catastrophic-care plans. Nonqualified plans may meet the lawyer’s needs, but they don’t meet the act’s requirements, and the lawyer would have to pay the tax penalty, explains Kelly.
Law firms can get “defined-benefit” plans, in which the firm pays a portion of the premium and the employee pays the rest, Kelly adds. Firms that choose this option must pay a “nominal fee.”
But neither the State Bar nor individual attorneys will pay for the service. Kelly explains that Member Benefits plays the role of an insurance agent, connecting people with health-insurance providers. The company collects its fee from the providers.
— Angela Morris