Groups representing a variety of sectors, from small businesses to farmers, announced this week that they will work to develop standards for organizations providing association health plans under new Department of Labor rules.
A recently formed coalition is setting out to work with federal and state policymakers to strike the right balance between regulating association health plans (AHPs) and providing the appropriate level of flexibility to allow organizations to provide comprehensive AHP health plans to their small-employer and self-employed members.
The Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans currently comprises 16 organizations, including ASAE, that believe employees of small businesses and independent contractors deserve quality coverage with strong consumer protections. According to an ASAE news release, the coalition “intends to develop standards and principles that other organizations operating an AHP should follow and will fight against fraudulent actors to ensure the AHP market evolves into a viable, successful marketplace.”
Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), a coalition member, said in a statement that “America’s farmers and ranchers work hard every day to contribute to the health of our nation, yet they often find themselves excluded from the affordable health insurance they need for themselves, their families, and their employees. We must find a better way for independent business owners to get the healthcare and coverage they need. AHPs can bring much-needed flexibility to the marketplace in rural America by allowing farmers and ranchers to band together for affordable plans.”
“Healthcare is one of the issues that can keep veterinarians up at night,” said Dr. John de Jong, president of coalition member the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). “Many veterinarians are small-business owners, which means they don’t have the same healthcare options as some other professionals. That’s why association health plans are so important to the veterinary profession, and why the AVMA is committed to advancing quality association health plans for our members and their employees.”
In June, the Department of Labor issued final regulations that would allow national trade associations and franchisee-based corporations to offer small businesses and independent contractor members access to the same type of health coverage offered by large employers. This coverage, provided through an association health plan, could be offered on a nationwide basis.
The final DOL regulations also allow local chambers of commerce and other similar associations with members who do not share the same industry to offer AHPs to their members located in the same state or metropolitan area.
“AHPs are an innovative way to help small businesses and their employees enjoy the same competitive advantages and access to quality, affordable coverage enjoyed by large corporations,” said ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV, FASAE, CAE. “While the DOL rule opens the door to expanding AHPs as a viable option for healthcare coverage, there is some work that needs to be done to refine and improve the general precision of the rule and partner with state regulators to make sure there is uniformity across the country.”
In addition to ASAE, AFBF, and AVMA, member organizations on the coalition’s steering committee include Associated Employers Benefit & Trust, Association of Web-Based Health Insurance Brokers, Financial Services Institute, Foundation for Government Accountability, Indiana Credit Union League, International Franchise Association, Michigan Dental Association, National Apartment Association, National Association of Realtors, NFIB, National Restaurant Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and Transportation Intermediaries Association.