Guilderland Chamber offers health insurance with ‘a human being responding’

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Shelli Taber, a benefits administrator at the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, will now also guide members of the Guilderland Chamber with health-insurance matters.

GUILDERLAND — The Guilderland Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the Bethlehem Chamber to offer health insurance to its members that will allow for consultations with a benefits administrator.
“I’m the daughter of an insurance man,” said Sandra Dollard, who directs the Guilderland Chamber and has been working towards this partnership since she took the helm a year ago.

“I know what it’s like when you have a lot of bills hitting you at once,” she said, in the midst of a medical crisis.

Dollard herself is in remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“When I went in for my biopsy,” she recalled, “the woman making my appointment said, ‘This will be $2,000.’”

Dollard had health insurance but no one to turn to to get her questions answered.

The Guilderland Chamber is using Burt Anthony Associates, which handles Medicare, CDPHP, and MVP health and dental insurance. The Bethlehem Chamber will manage the insurance, providing access to Shelli Taber, a licensed insurance agent with a specialty in health and dental insurance.

“Shelli’s been in our office with boots on the ground for eight years,” said Terri Egan, president of the Bethlehem Chamber. “She’s a tremendous asset … You can pick up your phone and talk to her or come in and sit in front of her to ask questions and get answers.”

Egan went on, “We often get people calling in distress.”

With Taber, clients don’t have to wait for answers, Egan said. And, she said, the prices for insurance “are competitive.”

The Bethlehem Chamber, Egan said, has almost 400 members; 77 have health insurance through the chamber. “We have big corporate clients and small mom-and-pops,” she said.

To qualify for the insurance, a business has to be a member of either the Guilderland or Bethlehem chamber, and have fewer than 100 employees; a business made up of just a single individual is eligible.

Enrollment or changes for plan year 2024 needs to be made between Nov. 16 and Jan. 5.

The Guilderland Chamber now has 280 member businesses, Dollard said. “Right now, a small portion of our membership gets insurance through us. I think they’ll be more motivated now.”

She went on, “It used to be easier for chambers.”

The Guilderland Chamber, typical of many chambers of commerce, lost members when the Affordable Care Act, largely known as Obamacare, went into effect.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, made health-care insurance more affordable for individuals and small businesses. Immediately, small businesses were eligible for tax credits worth up to 35 percent of an employer’s contribution to employees’ health insurance.

In 2013, the Health-Insurance Marketplace opened, which allowed individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable insurance. 

In 2014, the small-business tax credit was increased up to 50 percent of an employer’s contribution to employees’ health insurance.

“Everybody kind of jumped ship right at the get-go, and went on their own,” said the director of the Guilderland Chamber in 2018, Michelle Viola-Straight. “But now costs are rising, things are changing, coverage is changing … It’s almost [come] full circle, and we have more and more people calling that used to use the chamber as the insurance provider, that are now coming back to that.”

Dollard believes that Taber’s services will appeal to businesses and their employees. 

“To even read a bill can be tricky,” said Dollard. “You have to make sure the bill is coded correctly. A representative can get on a special portal to look up and see what you owe. This will allow us to have a human being responding.”

She concluded, “Having an in-house representative makes such a difference to the service you get.”

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