Funding to implement the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) new rule expanding access to association health plans (AHPs) is not included in appropriations bills approved recently by House and Senate committees.
The DOL’s regulation was finalized in June, allowing more groups to form AHPs as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health exchanges. Under the final rule, AHPs may be sold nationally, in groups of states or in a single state. States will continue to regulate the plans, although ASAE and others had pushed for AHPs to be exempt from state regulation. The new rule also allows small businesses and self-employed individuals who are in unrelated professions to band together to obtain coverage through an AHP as long as they are in the same geographic region.
Given that the final regulation just came out in June, it’s perhaps not surprising that funding has not yet been addressed. The bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on July 11 would decrease funding for the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) by $400,000 from the previous year, and the Senate appropriations bill would increase funding by $5.5 million only to update EBSA’s filing system for retirement plans. It is possible that funding to develop policy and expand access to AHPs can be included during conference on the two spending bills. If not, funding for AHP enforcement will likely be prioritized in the administration’s request for DOL next year.
The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is studying the AHP regulations closely and will be working with a coalition to ensure that AHPs can sell plans across state lines and to address the funding issue and other policy concerns surrounding the DOL’s regulations.
This article was provided to OSAE by the Power of A and ASAE's Inroads.