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
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
"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