Why Use an Association Group Insurance Program vs. an Independent Broker?

by Gayle Gilham on July 2, 2018

in Benefits

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For nearly six decades Cascade Employers Association has offered group health insurance to qualifying members through its sponsored Pacific Northwest Employers Life, Health Insurance Trust. And we’ve just taken that offering to a new level.

At first read, it may sound a little confusing: Cascade Employers Association + The Pacific Northwest Employers Life, Health Insurance Trust + CSNW Benefits. So we’ll help you get past that confusion right away and onto the reasons this is a good thing for our members.

Decades ago, Cascade was heavily involved with labor negotiations for a number of its member employers. Those employers wanted access to competitive group health insurance as an alternative to the union trust programs. Thus, Cascade formed a separate entity, The Pacific Northwest Employers Life, Health Insurance Trust. Over the years Cascade has served as Plan Administrator for all Trust programs. Cascade and the Trust are fortunate to have remained one of the few viable association programs in Oregon to this day, thanks to guidance from top-notch consultants and advanced cost containment measures.

CSNW LogoEffective July 1, 2018, Cascade entered a partnership with CSNW Benefits to help ensure the Trust’s offerings continue to be the best we can negotiate and that our members get the best customer service and resources available to help manage employee benefits. CSNW Benefits is an independent Portland-based firm with an exceptional reputation of transparency and an ultra-responsive approach to professionally implementing employee benefit programs, thus a great fit for our future path.

What’s the Difference Between an Independent Insurance Broker and an Association-Sponsored Group Insurance Program?

Let’s face it, managing employee health insurance, and benefits in general, isn’t a lot of fun. If an employer feels they are getting their employee benefits at a reasonable price (comparatively speaking), and they like and trust their independent broker, why spend the time looking elsewhere?

There are several good reasons. First, while most brokers have access to similar rates in the marketplace, they don’t all have access to the tools to help employers better and more easily manage employee benefits, such as online enrollment and benefits administration systems. And only the best brokers will come to your workplace to conduct employee education meetings so your people know how to access their benefits and what their benefits package includes. Then when it comes to unexpected insurance bills and claims questions, your people are likely directed straight to the insurance carrier to get their answers, which aren’t always easy to understand.

With an Association-sponsored group insurance program, employers get the advantage of participating with a large pool of employers in a common endeavor to combine high quality care with advanced cost containment measures. There’s also typically a better customer service element, including a team to advocate for employees during difficult claim situations, and features that make administration easier on the employer. While not all employers may be a fit for an association plan (you don’t automatically get really great rates just because you’re part of a group plan, as employee census information still plays a part in the equation), it’s definitely worth the time to explore one.

What Advantages Does Cascade’s Group Insurance Program Have That Most Others Don’t?

We know the reference to “great customer service” is often over-stated, but in our situation the term “great” isn’t even adequate. Thanks now to CSNW Benefits and their dedicated team, they’re helping to ensure our service is unsurpassed. And the advantages don’t stop there.

Through Cascade’s program, employers and their employees get these services and resources at no additional cost:

  • Company-branded online enrollment and benefits administration system
  • Single-source billing (one bill for all of your group insurance offerings)
  • Assistance with COBRA, HIPAA, and other administrative and compliance issues
  • Advocacy on claim and benefit questions
  • Enrollment and education meeting support

Prior to your next health insurance renewal cycle, we encourage you to compare your plans to ours.

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