Please tell us a little about yourself
My name is Aryeh Gross but many know me as Ari. I was born and raised in Elizabeth, NJ. I moved to Baltimore right when I got married to my wonderful wife Goldie. When we came to Baltimore, we knew a total of two people. We followed the Baltimore minhag of starting in Pickwick Apartments and slowly began to meet people. We quickly got enveloped by the warm and unified aura of Baltimore and decided to settle here. We’ve been living in Baltimore for 16 years now, and we couldn’t think of a better city to live in and raise our children.
How did you get into the insurance business?
Mostly by accident. I was straight out of yeshiva and college and was contemplating my next move. I needed health insurance for myself. I found the purchasing process to be confusing and frustrating. After researching and learning what I needed to know for myself, I started sharing my newfound knowledge with others. I would call insurance companies for my friends to get them signed up and a nice customer service lady quipped “You could do this for a living”. I laughed it off, as I thought that selling insurance for a living is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. One thing led to another, and the Columbia Group was born. My first office was in Columbia, MD which was the genesis of the name. My office is currently located in Pikesville.
I know you’re involved in several local organizations and schools. How do you find the time while running a business?
Stephen Covey once said “The key is not spending time, but in investing it”. I’ve been privileged to be able to work closely with many of our local organizations and schools. The Baltimore non-profit sphere is replete with many talented and passionate individuals that go above and beyond their job description to make our community better and stronger. Working alongside these administrators has been a tremendous source of inspiration for me. I have absolutely gained more from the various organizations I am involved in than I have given. As far as the time commitment – I’m blessed to have a wonderful staff that keeps the business engine running if I’m tied up with organizational work.
What types of insurance does Columbia Group sell?
We work with all Health and life insurance products with a primary focus on corporate employee benefits. We also have a very active individual health and life insurance division that sells dental, travel and disability insurance. Our main service area is the MD/DC area but we are currently active in 14 states.
Do you see insurance rates coming down in the near future?
After the massive rate increases in 2014-2015, the last few years have seen somewhat of a stabilization in rates. Healthcare costs continue to rise on an annual basis and with it, health insurance premiums. While I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t see any indicators in the market to assume rates will precipitously decline. However, we have seen a tremendous rise in employer contributions towards group-based health insurance as well as a rise in government subsidies on the individual market. Subsidies allow for families that are above the Medical Assistance threshold to still get financial assistance in paying their monthly premiums. Subsidies are determined based on family size and family income. Of course, health insurance is a highly politicized item and changing tax legislation, employment regulations, and insurance mandates are all elements in the political arena that could have an impact on healthcare. So, we constantly keep our ear to the ground to try and get ahead of any legislative changes.
I see all your company advertisements discuss Open Enrollment. What is Open Enrollment?
Open enrollment is the one time a year when anyone can purchase health insurance. Throughout the year, a person would have to have a qualifying reason to purchase health insurance (involuntary loss of other coverage, marriage, divorce, etc) but from November 1 – December 15th, anyone can purchase health insurance for the upcoming year. This year, open enrollment is extended to January 15th for those seeking a February 1 effective date.
If someone needs assistance with their insurance, how can they contact you.
They can call my office at (410) 483-8888 and one of our insurance specialists will be able to assist them. Alternatively, we developed a site in conjunction with CareFirst (www.quotebymyself.com) where consumers can shop on their own and still be able to have my team assist them with any questions.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Yes. Please consider supporting JEWELS School in their upcoming campaign!