Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber has gone beyond discussing the changes in health care and is actually offering a solution to rising insurance costs.

The chamber teamed with other chambers in the state to create Business Health Trust, a benefit program for employer groups that have anywhere from two to 140 employees. The program is not brand new, but its relevance has increased as health care reform is on the horizon.

Youth for Christ in Tacoma Area recently switched to BHT.

“It was the most affordable option we were given,” said Suzanne Pock, finance director of Youth for Christ. “We’ve always been a trust. We left a trust to come to this trust. Trusts tend to be more affordable because it’s a hugely high deductible.”

Business members of BHT can choose to include employee benefits for medical, dental, vision, life, supplemental life, long-term disability, accident insurance, legal and employee assistance coverage.

“You can choose what you want off the menu,” said Dawn Doyle, membership and fund development coordinator for the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber. “All of those things are included in our plan, and you can pick and choose what you want.”

Doyle said the BHT is a “one of a kind” program that most business groups don’t offer. In fact, many chambers throughout the country can’t offer a trust option because some states that weren’t as “progressive” as Washington don’t allow them.

“By us offering (insurance) in a trust, we can give small businesses pricing at large group rates. It’s a value we can give to our members,” Doyle said. “I’m confident that our insurance rates will be less than if employees go out on the Exchange, which they will be required to do next year.”

However, other chambers that want to allow members to join the trust can offer the BHT program through the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber.

“It’s good for us in that it strengthens our pool of people,” Doyle said about opening BHT up to those outside of its membership.

While the chamber touts the program as a membership benefit, others will likely hear about the BHT through South Sound brokers.

“Every client is different and they require analysis and discovery to assess the best fit for their benefits package,” said Brett Meade, advisor with Albers & Company. “Association plans such as BHT can use more risk rating factors than the standard small group products. Those employers whose risk characteristics are better than ‘average’ may be eligible to receive lower rates. Chamber members also receive a discount in rates. The downside, if claims are high, then rates tend to increase higher than the average plan.”