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Bar weighs health insurance program for small practices

By Amy Yarbrough
Staff Writer

Attorneys licensed in California may soon have another option when it comes to finding health insurance.

On March 7, the State Bar’s Board of Trustees gave its blessing to a proposal that would create a State Bar-sponsored program to help California lawyers obtain comprehensive and cost-effective health care insurance. Expected to go live this summer, the program would help sole practitioners and lawyers with small to mid-sized firms connect with vetted insurance brokers who can advise them of their options.

David Coher, chair of the Committee on Group Insurance Programs, which is spearheading the effort, said his group oversees a number of State Bar-sponsored insurance programs including long term care, disability, auto and homeowner’s. But the vast majority of the inquiries it receives have to do with health insurance.

He estimated that the committee receives six calls a week from lawyers inquiring about insurance, particularly from those concerned about the changes coming with the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires that most Americans obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a fine.

“The call volume has only picked up,” Coher said.

Coher said the committee is expected to approve contracts with multiple brokers formally at its meeting later this month. The brokers would be able to help lawyers choose an insurance plan best suited to their individual situation from among all health insurance providers in the state. Insurance premiums would be paid directly to the insurance providers, not through member dues. There would be no cost to the State Bar.

The proposed program isn’t the first time the State Bar has offered health care options to its membership. The bar used to sponsor a health insurance plan, but eliminated it in the 1990s. Coher said legislative changes at the time made it hard for the State Bar to compete with other insurance products on the market.