A multi-employer health plan managed by the healthcare company QualCare expects enrollment to rise more than 20 percent in 2014, as employers seek new alternatives as the health insurance landscape is transformed by the Affordable Care Act.
In 2004, QualCare launched Affiliated Physicians & Employers Health Plan, which is a self-insured plan. Three years ago the Employers Association of New Jersey entered into an agreement that allows EANJ member companies to join the plan, known as a "multiple employer welfare arrangement" or MEWA.
The MEWA currently covers about 13,000 lives, and that will grow 20 to 25 percent next year, according to Dawn Wright, vice president of insurance operations for QualCare.
Wright said members of the MEWA will see their rates increase 5.9 percent on average next year. That does not include the ACA's tax on health insurance, which Wright said will be an additional $5.25 a month per member, or $63 a year.
EANJ President John Sarno said employers who join the MEWA in many cases are exiting from health insurance plans that are hitting them with double-digit premiums increases next year. He said EANJ members are now about 12 percent of the MEWA's membership, and he predicted that would rise to about 20 percent next year.
The opportunity to join the MEWA is bringing new members into EANJ, Sarno said.
"This year seven out of 10 of our new members have enrolled in EANJ primarily because of the MEWA," he said.
Sarno said he had explored the MEWA because of what he anticipated would be the impact of the ACA.
"The ACA has done what we thought it would do, which is to raise prices and homogenize coverage," Sarno said. "That is why we (joined) the MEWA: to provide an alternative to employers who continue to want to offer health care to their employees."
Sarno said EANJ employers ranging from 8 lives to 400 lives have joined the MEWA, which he said offers a choice of 12 plans, access to the extensive QualCare network of hospitals and doctors, and competitive rates.
But the MEWA isn't right for every employer, Sarno said: To be eligible, 75 percent of the employer's workers have to reside in New Jersey.