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State Bar launches new sponsored health insurance program

California attorneys have a new resource for finding health care insurance. The State Bar is sponsoring a health care insurance program to help lawyers navigate the market by connecting them with insurance brokers.   

Health care reform has increased the need for assistance in understanding the changing health care insurance market and obtaining coverage, according to Ruben Reyes, incoming chair for the Committee on Group Insurance Programs (COGIP).

“A lot of members and groups have been asking questions about what the State Bar can provide in terms of services to its members,” Reyes said, adding that the State Bar’s past efforts to run a group program for its members proved unsuccessful.

“Since we were not able to provide a program like that, we thought that the next best option was to provide selected brokers,” he said.

To help fill the need, the Board of Trustees voted on March 7 to approve a proposal for a State Bar-sponsored health care program. The Committee on Group Insurance Programs used a competitive bidding process to find interested brokers and has since selected Marsh Risk and Insurance Services as one of two program administrators. The State Bar is also negotiating with a second brokerage to provide services.   

A resource that could prove particularly valuable to small firms and sole practitioners, the State Bar’s program is expected to go live by Nov. 1. Organizers hope to make health care brokers available who can assist members and their families and employees find quality health insurance, both on and off the state health insurance exchange plans mandated under the Affordable Care Act. Marsh will coordinate and administer these programs directly with the members. 

According to Reyes, working with a health care broker rather than selecting a program on your own is an advantage because brokerage employees are available to compare different plans and benefits. They can also help with filing claims and other issues that may crop up later. Brokers can also look at an individual or group’s insurance history and past claims and negotiate a good rate on their behalf.

“We wanted to do more than just help people find a plan,” he said.

Key information regarding the Affordable Care Act and Covered California

Beginning Jan. 1, most people are required to have and maintain health insurance. Those who decide  not to purchase coverage will have to pay a penalty starting in 2015.

Individuals without access to affordable, employer-sponsored plans that provide qualifying coverage can also enroll in plans offered through Covered California, the state’s online health care exchange offering plans with coverage beginning Jan. 1. Open enrollment for Covered California begins on Oct. 1.

Those who do not enroll with a health plan through the exchange by  March 31, 2014 will have to wait until the enrollment period opens again later in the year to get coverage.

For more information about the State Bar program, contact Laila Bartlett, staff coordinator for COGIP, at