Membership Organizations and Health Insurance

How to Get Group Health Insurance Through a Membership Organization

Image shows two people speaking over a table; one person is asking for information from the other. Text reads: "What to know: getting group health insurance through a membership organization: Group insurance rates have lower premiums because the risk is spread out among a group of members, making it a better option than individual health insurance. Association health plans allow members of a group or profession to band together in order to negotiate better premiums for their members (don't necessarily need to be under same employer); Unions, alumni associations, and professional organizations are a few membership groups that provide benefits to members"

Nusha Ashjaee / The Balance

Many people obtain health plans through their employers. This type of insurance is called group health coverage. When the plan is contracted for an employer or group, all the employees or members are pooled into the plan. Pooling lets them have lower-cost health care because the providers can offer group rates.

Group rates have lower premiums because the risk of losing money (for the insurance provider) is spread out among the members. Also, the employer may help pay premiums, so the employees pay less. You may want to look into group health plans if your employer doesn't offer them. If you're unemployed, self-employed, or a freelancer, you may want to check into group health plans.

Key Takeaways

  • A membership organization is a group that provides resources and benefits to its members.
  • Group membership-sponsored health plans may also be known as association health plans. 
  • The best places to start looking for insurance are groups where you’re already a member, like alumni associations and professional organizations.

Looking for Group Health Insurance

Many groups offer health plans or services to their members. As a group member, you may be eligible for discounts or be able to access a group health insurance plan. With a membership, you'll be able to get coverage even if you're not working. This is because group plans are based on being a member of the group, not your work status.

You may also receive discounts for services, stores, or college classes. Some groups offer access to magazines, websites, or other subscription-based services. Some groups even provide supplemental health care plans.

What Are Membership Health Plans?

Group health care plans may also be known as association health plans. These health care plans allow members of a group or profession to band together and negotiate better premiums for their members. This works similarly to the way an employer-sponsored health plan works.

The members of these groups do not work for the same employer. Instead, they work in the same industry. Some groups form because they share the same interests. It's even likely that a group of people would form only to define themselves as an association to get health care benefits.

When shopping for group health care, keep in mind that the plans may not be approved under the Affordable Care Act. Before you decide on a plan, compare it to plans you can get through the marketplace.

How Can I Find Group Health Plans?

The first thing to do is to think about the groups where you may already be a member or be able to join. For example, you may belong to a union, an alumni group, or a professional group. Many of these offer group plans. Your local chamber of commerce may have health care programs for small businesses if you own one.

Most freelance writers have heard of the Writers Guild of America. The guild is dedicated to providing resources and help for professional writers. Among their many benefits, they may provide group health plans to their members. They have very strict rules for being a member, but it is one of many groups that offer health insurance.

Memberships That Offer Group Plans

  • AARP Health—offers many options in supplemental health care plans
  • Alliance for Affordable Services
  • Affiliated Workers Association (AWA)
  • American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) - offers health insurance if you travel abroad; however, they no longer offer health care choices within the U.S. due to the ACA.
  • Association for Computing Machinery—for computing professionals.
  • Costco Health Insurance Marketplace
  • Freelancers Union—freelancers can join for free and choose from a variety of resources.
  • Writers Guild of America.

Group Membership Resources

The Artists’ Health Insurance Resource Center is another group that works to help specific people. However, it doesn't directly provide health insurance. The Small Business Service Bureau also provides health care help to its members.

Members of the National Small Business Association can also access group plans for long-term care, disability income, and life insurance.

Employer vs. Individual vs. Membership

If you are looking for a group plan, your or your partner's employer may help you. Many will pay a part of the monthly premium. They may also contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).

You might find that a health plan through a group is a better option than an individual plan. This is mainly due to the lower costs a group plan passes on to members. With healthcare as costly as it is and the laws always changing, it pays off to compare all your options to find the best plan for you.

ACA Changes to Membership Health Plans

It was once common to find a health plan through groups. This was because they could choose which state's rules to follow when making their health care plans. This let them be more adaptable in what they covered and how they covered it.

This may sound good, but it caused problems in the quality of health care plans provided because there was no standard of care. The ACA changed a group's ability to pick and choose what they covered. Group plans have to meet the conditions set by the ACA, such as essential services.

The best way to save money on a health plan is to shop around, learn about your options, and see how they compare to what you and your family need.

These changes caused some groups to cancel their health care plans or shift their focus to supplemental ones. However, groups still offer health care, help, and services to their members. It is worth finding out if you can gain from a group plan if you have one available to you. 

Many people do not realize there are programs out there that can help when it's tough to find affordable health care. If you are looking for other ways to save money on your health care, check out the benefits of using an HSA or find out more about Medicare and Medicaid and if you might qualify.