ASTA giving members what they asked for: Insurance benefits

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ASTA giving members what they asked for: Insurance benefits
Photo Credit: Vinnstock/Shutterstock

Increasingly in recent years, ASTA members have requested that the Society offer health insurance as a membership benefit so that individuals and small businesses can qualify for more favorable group rates.

ASTA has met that call, announcing at its Small Business Network Conference that it would offer members in 39 states the chance to purchase health and other forms of insurance through an association health plan.

ASTA will not be able to offer insurance to members in 11 states: Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Peter Lobasso, ASTA's general counsel, said that in many cases, those states only permit Affordable Care Act-compliant policies offered through their healthcare exchanges.

According to Lobasso, when the Society surveyed members earlier this year, more than 60% said they were interested in purchasing health insurance through ASTA if it was offered.

"As the industry's trade association, ASTA wants to be responsive to the needs of its members, and if it's important to them, then it's important to us," Lobasso said.

ASTA will offer the benefit through an association health plan (AHP). According to the Department of Labor, AHPs, first made available in June 2018, "work by allowing small businesses, including self-employed workers, to band together by geography or industry to obtain healthcare coverage as if they were a single large employer."

To offer an AHP to members, Lobasso said, ASTA has contracted with a vendor, which will act as a broker between ASTA and insurance providers. In addition to health insurance, ASTA members will be able to purchase dental and vision coverage, disability and life insurance, long-term care insurance and Medicare supplemental policies. 

ASTA anticipates coverage will be available before the end of the year.

ASTA said members have increasingly been asking for health insurance, a trend Lobasso said he believes is linked to the cost of healthcare.

"I think the greater frequency is due primarily to the relative lack of affordable healthcare options, particularly with respect to small businesses and sole proprietorships," he said.

Healthcare coverage will be available for individuals and small-business owners as well as their families. ASTA said it also extends to independent contractors (ICs), who, Lobasso said, are the Society's fastest-growing membership segment.

He predicted that healthcare at more affordable group rates will help eliminate a barrier for ICs to enter the industry full time.

"Many of them told us that they are unable to transition into selling travel on a full-time basis because they need to continue working elsewhere in order to maintain their employer-provided insurance coverage," Lobasso said.

Information about the program's cost and how to enroll will be forthcoming. Members who have questions are encouraged to email [email protected].

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