Practice owners and AVMA members enrolled in the AVMA Trust Association Health Plan are invited to view a recording of a recent exclusive event about the legal requirements – and benefits – of allowing employees to make pre-tax deductions for health insurance.

The IRS, under IRC section 125, requires employers to have a Premium Only Plan document in place in order to allow employees enrolled in the health plan to make pre-tax deductions for the coverage.

By putting a Premium Only Plan in place, you not only will be in compliance with legal requirements, but you will recognize the following benefits for your practice as well as your employees:

  • Employees save money by having their premiums deducted on a pre-tax basis    
  • Employers save nearly 8% in payroll taxes for every dollar their employees deduct
  • Managers save on the cost of administration 
  • Employees can enroll in additional voluntary benefits with their savings   
  • Tax savings will help defray the cost of insurance rate increases   

If you’re considering a group health plan and have questions about the AVMA Trust Association Health Plan, reference these frequently asked questions. The AVMA Trust has a dedicated AHP team available to answer your questions and assist in the enrollment process, including the documentation step described below. Connect with a member of the team at 833-454-LIFE (5433).

What is an Association Health Plan?
An Association Health Plan (AHP) allows small employers with common business interests to band together to enroll themselves and their employees into a health plan. AHPs:
• Provide greater negotiating power with insurance providers
• Reduce the administrative burden for small businesses
• Provide access to health coverage typically only available to large employers

What are the requirements to enroll in the AHP?
• All licensed veterinarians must be active members of the AVMA
• The practice must have 2-50 employees (owners can be included) who work 30 hours or more per week
• The practice must primarily conduct business in one of the currently eligible states. Visit to view the complete list
• Coverage must be offered to all employees, with 75% of all eligible employees enrolling in coverage unless they have a valid waiver (a valid wavier can include individuals covered elsewhere under a group health plan, on COBRA, or with state-sponsored assistance such as Medicaid or Medicare)
• The practice must pay at least 50% of the rate of the lowest plan (Employee Only) offered to employees

How much does the AVMA Trust AHP cost?
Rates for the AHP are based on your zip code, age of eligible members (in that zip code) and gender. Participants can choose between rates for 1) Employee Only, 2) Employee + Spouse, 3) Employee + Child(ren), or 4) Family. As an employer, you must pay 50% of the lowest single rate plan you are offering, per participant. Note: you may be eligible for tax credits up to 50% of your paid contribution to employee health plans.

When will rates for the AHP change?
Your plan options and rates will not change until January 1,2022.

How many plan options are available through the AVMA Trust AHP?
Employers can choose up to three (3) plans out of six (6) plans offered through the AHP.

How many documents do I have to submit to enroll into the AHP?
We have provided a checklist of all of the required documents in this packet. You must submit all of these with your final submission.
• Final quote (provided by HUB)
• Final census
• Signed AVMA Employer Participation Agreement
• Master application
• Proof of AVMA membership (provided by HUB)
• Proof of business
• Proof of wages

What is the Participation Agreement?
The Participation Agreement is a document outlining the rules of the AVMA Trust AHP. You must sign this document, certifying that you meet these requirements.

What is proof of Association Membership?
Once your completed paperwork is submitted, HUB will generate a proof of Association Membership for each veterinarian provided in the practice census on your behalf.

What is considered proof of business?
Your most recent wage report or payroll records, Articles of Incorporation, Articles of Organization, Certificate of Organization, Certificate of Limited Partnership or Limited Liability Company organizational documents.

What is considered proof of wages?
Your quarterly wage and tax report; your most recent quarterly wage report which includes practice name and shows individual employees with the over 3 months; or W-2s for existing employees or W-4s for newly hired employees to validate they are employed with your organization.

What if I am (or an employee is) not on the wage and tax report?
You will need to submit a Supplemental Employment Verification form.

When will my identification cards be provided?
7-10 business days after all documents are received and approved, ID cards will be sent to all enrollees.

Who do I call with questions or status on my enrollments?
Call the AVMA Trust AHP toll free number, 833-454-LIFE (5433).

To learn more and to connect with the AVMA Trust, please reach out today:

From small animal practices to equine practitioners, it’s always a challenge to divert attention from the day-to-day focus on client health with operational decisions. With such a devotion to the health of your clients, it’s possible to forget the health and well-being of yourself and your employees. At times it might even feel wiser to not offer health benefits to your employees, especially if you’ve never offered a plan before. 

We understand. We know it can seem like yet another item that distracts you from your critical mission. But that’s where your AVMA membership can help. 

The AVMA Trust created this blog post specifically for you. It details three advantages of group health plans — and always considers the financial impact of offering a health plan.

Strength in Numbers

An association group health coverage compared to individual coverage in an open market and small group coverage:

  • Individual health coverage
    • More expensive than group health coverage, lacks employer cost sharing
    • Subject to premiums based on age, location and market availability
    • Uncontrolled risk pool which can lead to large, increased premiums
    • Paying an increased full premium cost with taxed earnings
    • No rate negotiation or purchasing influence with insurer 
  • Small group health coverage (2 to 50 employees)  
    • Lack in plan diversity, only a few basic plan options at price point 
    • Low purchasing power over larger groups
    • Tax-advantaged options (HSA and Cafeteria Plan)
    • Limited network access compared to large group coverage
    • The employer assumes a minimum set contribution toward each employee’s premium
    • COBRA eligible
  • Association group health coverage (2 to 50 employees) 
    • Pooling your group’s purchasing power (a potential 2% to 15% savings) and increased protection against rate hikes
    • Insulates your group in shared responsibility and risk by combining claims risk     
    • Tax-advantaged options (HSA and Cafeteria Plan)
    • Administration benefits of a large group offering (e.g., customer support, Benefit Value Advisors, online enrollment and bill pay platform)
    • The employer assumes a minimum set contribution toward each employee’s premium
    • COBRA eligible

Increased Plan Versatility

Coverage without choice isn’t really coverage. We understand that each practice — and as importantly, each employee — has myriad coverage needs and medical concerns. When you shop for group coverage, be sure to consider a group plan’s versatility. Consider the following: 

  • A choice in benefit plans that best tailors to the needs of your practice and the needs of your employees
    • The AHP offers up to 3 of 6 plans with choice of high-deductible health plan (HDHP) or Traditional PPO designs (all PPO plans include rabies and titers vaccinations as preventative)
  • The size of the network and the specifics providers available
    • The AHP’s broad national PPO network enables freedom in provider choice
  • Purchasing power
    • Through the AHP, you’ll increase your group benefit purchasing power by pooling together as an industry, affording additional medical claim buffers and lower rate increases annually.

Expanded Coverage through Tax-Advantaged Strategies

Health insurance is complicated. Navigating the various legislative and tax hurdles can help your practice receive more coverage for your dollar. By paying for medical premium through tax-advantaged strategies, you’ll see the benefits for your employees and your bottom line. Explore the various advantages that can be leveraged through tax strategies:

  • For full-time employees, small group health options (including the AVMA Trust AHP) allow for cafeteria plans — employee benefit arrangements in which employees can select from a range of benefits 
  • A salary reduction election agreement between the employer and employees is created. The employer allocates a portion of the employee’s compensation to pay the cost share of the employee’s medical elections pre-tax, with the added benefit of reducing the employee’s taxable income. Getting more for your dollar!
  • Employees pay monthly premium and Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions from this account
  • Employer contributions paid toward medical premiums are tax deductible to the employer
  • Medical savings accounts, available with HDHPs, provide a non-taxable account in which to pay for IRS qualified medical expenditures, including medical services, tests, provider appointments and prescription costs. Contributions to these accounts are finite and adjust annually.

About the AVMA Trust Association Health Plan (AHP)

The mission of the AVMA Trust is to protect veterinarians through it all with veterinarian-inspired coverage. That’s why a group health medical plan is a critical member benefit for practice owners. 

The AHP now offers six fully insured major medical plans to practices through BlueCross Blue Shield to 11 states with coverage rates guaranteed until 2022. 

To learn more and to connect with the AVMA Trust, please reach out today:

An employee health plan — and the renewal process —  doesn’t need to cause you or your veterinary practice stress. In fact, with the right plan, an employee health plan should empower all members of your practice and create calm in an anxious world.

We understand that all insurance renewals — and especially employee health plans — can be confusing and stressful. That’s why the AVMA Trust created this blog post to help guide you through the process. 

1. Time Your Renewal or Coverage Change

When does your practice’s existing health plan expire? Understanding when your coverage expires (or is set to renew) is the first step in a successful renewal process.

Generally speaking, open enrollment occurs in November and December in about three-quarters of group medical plans, but as a practice owner or manager, you should begin your assessment well before the closing weeks of the year. It is best practice to begin 30 days before you expect to receive the “renewal” of your current plan – that is, the pricing and options for the following year.

Work back from the renewal date for your practice. Give yourself plenty of time to properly review and assess your needs and desires. The last thing you or your employees want is a rushed decision — or to renew with your current option simply because the clock ran out. 

2. Review the Past and Assess Your Options

If you offer a health plan to the practice, take the time to revisit your plan utilization. Did the group utilize your benefit plan during the past year? What did they like and dislike with the plan? Does it make sense to remain in the same plan or would switching coverages better fit your practice for the coming year? Has the size of your practice changed? Do you expect enrollment to change significantly over the next year?

Assessing your current situation by examining your plan usage and speaking with employees will help you understand your unique needs and may provide more options to you at renewal time.  

3. Minimize Burdens, Maximize Participation

Remember, your health plan should actually be a benefit not an administrative burden for you.  Nor should it be viewed as a restrictive plan for employees. Ideally, the plan should help attract and retain a talented workforce.

As you consider options, remember to assess not just the medical portion of your offering (e.g. network, plan designs, features, etc.). Administrative options can also prove incredibly helpful throughout the year. Some coverage options and carriers provide tailored customer service and online enrollment options that make employee adjustments easy and painless. Online bill pay is another feature that may help reduce your administrative burden and give you more time to deal with the day-to-day business of your veterinary practice.

Ready to explore your options?

If you’re ready to consider adding or changing the employee health benefit for your practice, consider the AVMA Trust Association Health Plan. Features include:

  • Monthly enrollments with rates locked to the end of 2021 (12+ months of cost stability, delaying premium increases)
  • Plans designed with various cost-shares and deductible amounts
  • Health Savings Account strategies available to promote responsible plan use and future healthcare cost
  • An optional partnership with Paylocity to offer significant savings on payroll and healthcare account services
  • Tailored customer service and online enrollment platform to make group adjustments and online bill pay  
  • Rabies vaccine and titer testing included in PPO networks

Veterinary practice owners are dedicated to health. It’s the foundation of a lifelong commitment to animals. But while veterinary practice owners and managers are experts on caring for animals, navigating the confusing world of employee health, is, well, a whole different animal. 

That’s why the AVMA Trust has created this four-step guide to help AVMA members understand and select an employee health benefits plan that’s right for you and your practice.

1 |  Explore Your Options

It’s not quite passing the veterinary exam boards — but there’s still a lot to consider when selecting a health plan. Coverage options are generally tied to the unique factors of a practice, but for small group benefits (typically 2 to 50 employees) the options remain plentiful. Consider that specific medical plans in the marketplace might offer a combination of: 

  • Major Medical Benefit Plan 
    • Including a choice between PPOs, HMOs and high-deductible plans
  • Large Network Access
    • Providing your employees more options to providers and doctors, including high- and low-deductible plan options available to suit need and budget  
  • Pharmacy
  • Vision and Dental
    • While not common, some plans offer additional benefits not covered in standard care plan
  • Wellness Program
    • Offers employees financial, health and community support
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
  • Mental health, family and legal/financial resources
  • Healthcare and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
  • Voluntary coverage 
    • To cover accidents, critical illness and hospital indemnity

2 |  Determine Your Budget

Like all business decisions with your practice, it’s essential to consider your budget. Group health is no small benefit and careful analysis in both cost and coverage must be considered.

It’s important to remember that in today’s insurance marketplace, small and midsize practices are not priced out. In fact, they have options that large employers cannot offer like the variety of group- and individual-coverage plans available, depending on your state, area and average employee age.

3 |  Weigh the Factors for Your Employees

A critical part of the process is to view the health benefits plan through the eyes of all your employees. A recent survey by the Veterinary Hospital Managers Association (VHMA) indicated the top pain point in practices is employee fatigue (stress, irritability, etc.), so it’s important to remember that offering a health plan might be the crucial decision for an employee to apply for a position at your practice — or leave for greener pastures. 

4 |  Understand Your Competition

From attracting and retaining clients to hiring and retaining staff, you know better than anyone that the veterinary industry is competitive.

Offering a simple benefits package over salary is added compensation that can maximize earned pre-tax revenue and should always be a valued part of the interview process or continuing benefit education. 

About the AVMA Trust Association Health Plan (AHP)

The mission of the AVMA Trust is to protect veterinarians through it all with veterinarian-inspired coverage. That’s why a group health medical plan is a critical member benefit for practice owners. 

The AHP now offers six fully insured major medical plans to practices through BlueCross Blue Shield to 12 states with coverage rates guaranteed until 2022. 

To learn more and to connect with the AVMA Trust, please reach out today: