NU Online News Service, July 15, 2003, 6:24 p.m. EDT – The King Thomason Group Inc., San Ramon, Calif., says 11 large insurance brokers have agreed to market its new, Web-based health coverage program.

The American Health Trend Series program includes limited-benefit health insurance plans, health discount programs, dental insurance and prescription drug coverage as well as traditional medical insurance, King Thomason says.

The American Health menu is limited in Oregon, New York, Virginia and Washington because of regulatory restrictions, but King Thomason is offering some products for consumers in all 50 states, according to Tim King, president of King Thomason.

King Thomason is coping with differences in state regulations and state health insurance markets by using different carriers in each state.

Brokers can sell the American Health products through Web sites that appear to belong to the brokers or the brokers’ clients, King Thomason says.

Because the American Health products are individually underwritten or sold on a guaranteed-issue basis, brokers can market the program to individuals and employer groups as well as to associations. But King Thomason designed the program as an alternative for associations.

Associations once had an easy time offering association medical plans. Today, traditional medical insurance is too expensive and too complicated, and most insurers insist on selling large numbers of individual policies, rather than true group policies.

Even if association members could afford to pay for the insurance, “the broker really can’t afford to see all these people” to explain the products, King says.

On the other hand, King says, associations that once used access to association health plans as a major incentive to join could lose members if they drop health benefits.

“Members are asking, ?Why am I going to pay the $100 annual membership fee if I can’t get my health insurance any more?’,” King says.

King Thomason is hoping associations and their brokers will reduce the cost of offering association health benefits by steering association members to the American Health program Web sites.

King says the American Health program emphasizes discount programs and limited-benefit insurance rather than traditional medical insurance because traditional medical insurance is so expensive in many states. King cites a story of an acquaintance who would have had to pay $1,835 per month to continue the health insurance his employer had provided.

Brokers that have agreed to use the American Health program include Collective Underwriters, Forward Financial Insurance, Insurance Offices of America, Marsh McLennan, Midlands Management Group, Missouri Employers General Agency, NetStar Underwriters, Oklahoma Mutual Assurance Group, Risk Transfer, Stewart Insurance and Unisource Administrators, King Thomason says.