Membership Organizations and Health Insurance

Learn About Group Health Insurance Through a Membership Organization

Image shows two people speaking over a table; one person is asking for information from the other. Headline reads, "What to Know: Getting Group Health Insurance Through a Membership Organization," while the text reads, "Group insurance rates have lower premiums because the risk is spread out among a group of members, making it a better option than individual health insurance; Association health plans allow members of a group or profession to band together in order to negotiate better premiums for their members (don't necessarily need to be under same employer); Unions, alumni associations, and professional organizations are a few membership groups that provide benefits to members"

The Balance / Nusha Ashjaee

Many people obtain health plans through their employers, and group health coverage is one type of insurance that's offered this way. All the employees or members are pooled into the plan when it's contracted for by an employer or an organization. Pooling the individuals lets them have lower-cost health care because the providers can offer group rates. And group rates have lower premiums because the risk of losing money for the insurance provider is spread out among the members. 

Some companies offer group health insurance, but others do not. You may want to consider a group health plan from an organization if you're unemployed, self-employed, or a freelancer.

Key Takeaways

  • A membership organization is a group that provides resources and benefits to its members.
  • Group membership-sponsored health plans may also be known as association health plans. 
  • The best places to start looking for insurance are groups where you’re already a member, such as alumni associations and professional organizations.

Looking for Group Health Insurance

Many groups offer health plans or services to their members. As a group member, you may be eligible for discounts or even have to access a group health insurance plan. You'll be able to get coverage even if you're not working if you have a membership because group plans are based on being a member of the group, not on your work status.

The Freelancers Union is an example. It represents 56.7 million independent workers across the U.S. and gives them the opportunity to receive insurance benefits including health, dental, disability, and more. You may also receive discounts for services, stores, or college classes through some groups and health insurance plans. Some groups offer access to magazines, websites, or other subscription-based services, too.

What Are Membership Health Plans?

Group health care plans may also be known as association health plans. They allow members of a group or a profession to band together and negotiate better premiums for their members. This functions similarly to how an employer-sponsored health plan works.

Group health plans are also available for small businesses. Premiums are paid with pretax dollars in this case, which can help employees pay less in annual taxes. Members of the National Small Business Administration can also access group plans for long-term care, disability income, and life insurance.

Keep in mind when you're shopping for group health care that the plans may not be approved under the Affordable Care Act. Compare them to plans you can get through the marketplace before you decide on a plan.

How Can I Find Group Health Plans?

First think about the groups in which you may already be a member or you're able to join. You may belong to a union, an alumni group, or a professional group. Your local chamber of commerce may have health care programs for small businesses if you own one.

Most freelance writers have heard of the Writers Guild of America, which is dedicated to providing resources and help for professional writers. Among its many benefits, it may provide group health plans to its members. They have very strict rules for membership, but it's one of many groups that offer health insurance.

Memberships That Offer Group Plans

Employer vs. Individual vs. Membership

You or your partner's employer may help you if you're looking into a group plan that you can't afford on your own. Many companies will pay a part of the monthly premium. They may also contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) on your behalf.

You might find that a health plan through a group is a better option than an individual plan. This is mainly due to the lower costs that a group plan passes on to its members. With health care as costly as it is and the laws always changing, it can pay to compare all your options to find the best plan for you.

ACA Changes to Membership Health Plans

It was once common to find a health plan through groups because they could choose which state's rules to follow when making their health care plans, allowing them to be more adaptable in what they covered and how they covered it.

While it sounded good on the surface, it caused many problems in the quality of health care plans provided because there was no standard of care. The ACA changed a group's ability to pick and choose what they covered. Group plans have to meet the conditions set by the ACA, such as essential services.

These changes caused some groups to cancel their health care plans or to shift their focus to supplemental plans, but groups still offer health care, help, and services to their members. It's worth finding out if you can gain from a group plan if you have one available to you. 

Many people don't realize that there are programs out there that can help when it's tough to find affordable health care. Check out the benefits of using an HSA if you're looking for other ways to save money on your health care or learn more about Medicare and Medicaid if you qualify.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do members of membership health plans all have to work for the same employer?

The members of these groups generally don't work for the same employer, but they work in the same industry. Some groups form because they share the same interests. Many freelancers, including journalists, writers, and artists, tend to join a group health insurance plan.


Is a membership health plan better than individual coverage?

You might find that a health plan through a group is a better option than an individual plan. This is mainly due to the lower costs that a group plan passes on to its members. With health care as costly as it is and the laws always changing, it can pay to compare all your options to find the best plan for you.

Updated by
Jess Feldman
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Full Bio
Jess Feldman has been writing and editing for over five years, and currently focuses on financial topics. As an associate editor on the special projects team, she writes, edits, and develops tentpole brand projects across a variety of platforms. Since joining the financial space, she's developed an interest in finding ways to make the complex topic of finance relatable to younger generations, specifically via TikTok. Jess has a journalism degree from the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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Article Sources

  1. Freelancers Union. "About Freelancers Union, Who We Are."

  2. United Healthcare. “What Is Group Health Insurance?

  3. National Small Business Administration. "Health Insurance Enrollment, Simplified."

  4. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "If You’d Like to Change to a Marketplace Plan."

  5. Writers Guild of America West. "Membership Information Benefits."

  6. Department of Health and Human Services. "Key Features Of the Affordable Care Act By Year."

  7. PEN America. “Health Insurance for Writers.”