Freedom of choice Featured

10:08am EDT July 22, 2002
Irene M. Ward didn't realize she had a choice.

The owner of Irene M. Ward & Associates joined the Hilliard Chamber of Commerce about four years ago and took advantage of its business medical insurance group plan through Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. What she didn't know was that she could choose her own broker for the plan.

A client of hers, Tim Harrington, group-benefits manager for Great Lakes Risk Management in Toledo, offered to be her broker and has since taken time to explain to her the benefits she's paying for through the chamber.

"We didn't even know we had a $15,000 life policy," Ward says. "I'm finally getting service and at no [extra] cost."

Her chamber policy also provides pharmacy cards, eyeglass and dental coverage, as well as doctor visit co-pays.

Harrington does not charge Ward to be her broker; he is paid by the insurance carrier. Harrington advises business owners to check with a broker to determine whether they have the same choice as Ward; not all chambers allow that flexibility to their members.

Using a broker, Harrington says, helps the business owner like Ward who does not have time to research all the plan designs, carriers and costs available. Owners should choose a broker the same way they would choose other professional services, such as attorneys or accountants, Harrington says.

"Talk with other business associates who have had good experiences with them, and go on word of mouth," he says.