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Health insurance: Veterinarians wonder what to do now?
For veterinarians facing the end of their coverage, there's little assurance they'll obtain a new policy in time.


The exchanges

Right now, the public health exchanges intended to function as competitive insurance marketplaces aren't scheduled to be operational until Oct. 1. "We're entirely dependent on the new exchanges being ready to go in October, and if there's a problem with them being ready there's a fear there will be a gap in coverage," says Morgan, the independent veterinary contractor.

In addition to the uncertainty of the timing on the new exchanges, there's no way to know if rates will be affordable. "It's coming down to the wire," Morgan says. "Will the exchange in my state have a sophisticated website ready in October and will we be able to purchase policies by the end of the year? That's a big question mark."

Carin Smith, DVM, of Smith Veterinary Consulting in Peshastin, Wash., refuses to panic. "I am not freaking out," Smith says. "I will do what I advise others to do: keep up with the info on health insurance exchanges [and] what is happening in my state. For better or worse, there was no action taken on creating exchanges until after the presidential election, thus we don't yet have all the details. Once those are up and running I will look into what works for me and make a choice."

Arensburg is not as optimistic. "Our approach has been cautious because it's all speculation right now," he says of the exchanges. "Nobody really knows what's going to happen."

A GHLIT alternative

In the meantime, the AVMA GHLIT is making good on its promise to help members transition to new coverage by establishing a private health exchange with HealthPlan Services' (HPS) benefit platform. According to a February release, the GHLIT private insurance exchange will provide tools and support to help AVMA members shop, compare costs and benefits, and purchase a medical plan. "Our new Web-based insurance exchange marketplace will enable our members to .... review and compare medical insurance options, and is an innovative solution to the challenges created by recent events impacting GHLIT medical coverage," says James H. Brandt, DVM, GHLIT chair. The first phase of the GHLIT exchange is scheduled to roll out in early March and will focus on the needs of members age 65 and older. The second phase, to be live in late spring, will expand to cover the remaining membership.

Until the exchanges are operational and policies are available to consumers, the reforms are seen by some as both the illness and the cure of medical coverage. "It's kind of a Catch-22," Volk says. "The new healthcare law has precipitated New York Life pulling out of the group insurance business, but on the other hand, because of the healthcare law, there will be insurance available; everyone has to be covered."

In the end, the abrupt elimination of health coverage—a significant benefit to AVMA membership—has been a hard pill to swallow. "To me, the membership is something I've had my entire career," Morgan says. "These policies have become more important over the years, but it's just not going to be there anymore."

This story is the first in a dvm360 series on the state of health coverage for veterinarians. To reach content specialist Julie Scheidegger, e-mail her at
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Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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