On Oct. 1, 2018, WBA announced the availability of an Association Health Plan (AHP) exclusively for WBA member banks to offer to their employees. AHPs became possible only a few months earlier due to a final rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor which updated the definition of "employer" under section 3(5) of ERISA to allow entities such as trade and professional associations to sponsor group health coverage. Upon the finalization of this rule, WBA Employee Benefits Corporation sprang into action so WBA members could benefit from this new type of healthcare alliance as soon as possible.

For this first wave of enrollment nearly 20 banks joined together and are already experiencing many benefits like better rates, better coverage, and better service. “Without an AHP, our bank was forced to fend for itself in the health insurance arena – it was a bit like David vs. Goliath and our rates sky-rocketed,” said John Beirl, president, Northern State Bank, Ashland. “Together with other community banks, with higher numbers, I think we present a more attractive option for an insurance company – with more bargaining power. Our bank health insurance rates went down considerably under the WBA’s new AHP.”  

“Community banks face strong headwinds – competition at every turn, increasingly complex and time-consuming regulations, worker shortages, and many others,” Beirl continued. “All of these challenges strain our bank profitability. Reducing a major expense while improving coverage for our valued employees was a slam-dunk decision for us.”

To deliver a quality AHP program to its members WBA partnered with UnitedHealthCare (UHC), the nation’s single largest proprietary network. “We have been very happy with the change and working with UnitedHealthCare has been seamless and definitely less work than our previous, partially self-funded plan,” said Monica Baker, SVP-chief brand officer, PyraMax Bank, Greenfield. “The process was pretty simple; the hard part was just selecting an option because there were so many to choose from.”

In today’s competitive job market, attracting and retaining talent can be a challenge for smaller employers, particularly in the area of employee benefits. “We selected the Association Health Plan (AHP) to allow us to still offer a great benefit plan without the added risk of a small group,” explained Baker. “It allows us to compete for talent and still offer a robust health insurance plan. When you are a smaller institution one health case can throw your whole expense plan out of whack and the ability to have the purchasing power of a large institution is truly invaluable!”

Beirl shared a similar sentiment: “In order to compete with other employers, we need a health insurance offering that is competitive in both coverage and price. We have that with the WBA AHP.”

UHC reaches 98 percent of the U.S. population. “In our remote part of the state, provider networks are a real concern. UHC is large enough to provide extensive coverage, even in our ‘neck-of-the-woods,’” said Beirl, addressing a concern for many banks in small and rural communities.

“Even though we do business a long ways from Madison, we have confidence that an offering of the WBA will be fully vetted and a competitive option for community banks,” Beirl continued. “And with our previous experience with the excellent staff at the WBA – Daryl, Brian, Kathy – we know that their support will be second-to-none. They know the industry. They know us. They answer our questions. Our transition to the WBA AHP went smoothly and without a hitch,” Beirl explained. “The advice that I would give to banks considering switching their health insurance is to give the WBA’s AHP a chance and get a quote. Give Daryl or Brian a call.  Listen to what they have to say. Take the time to provide them with your bank’s census. What do you have to lose? You may be pleasantly surprised.” 

If you have any questions or would like more information about WBA's AHP, please visit www.wisbank.com/AHP or contact Daryll Lund (608-441-1203) or Brian Siegenthaler (608-441-1211).