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AHPs Highlighted at Ways and Means Hearing

The plans allow small businesses to band together and obtain health coverage

During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing this week, association health plans (AHPs) were referenced as an affordable and effective option for covering individuals with pre-existing health conditions.

Ways and Means Democrats convened the hearing Jan. 29 to draw attention to efforts by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers to chip away at the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Republicans on the committee countered by highlighting AHPs as a way for small businesses to band together and obtain health coverage in the same way that large employers do.

One witness at the hearing, Rob Robertson from the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation (NFBF), talked about farmers and ranchers’ experience with skyrocketing premiums in the ACA marketplace. Thanks to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) new rules last summer allowing for expansion of AHPs, farmers, ranchers and others employed in agribusiness in Nebraska have been able to form a large group AHP as a more affordable alternative.

“In order to attract members to the AHP, we offered health insurance that was reasonably priced and that covered pre-existing conditions,” Robertson said. “Let me be clear, we do not view our AHP as an attack on the ACA, but a companion to it that provides our member families with another health insurance option that offers them quality care at a reduced cost.”

Analysis of AHPs that have formed since the DOL finalized its AHP rule last year reveals that the plans are offering generous benefits and premiums lower than can be found in the ACA marketplaces, according to a Jan. 30 Washington Post article.

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is leading the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans, which submitted a statement for the Ways and Means hearing this week. The coalition notes that critics have dubbed AHPs as “junk” insurance, but the plans are subject to the same requirements currently in place for large group plans, including protections for pre-existing conditions.

“The final AHP regulations give small businesses an opportunity to stand on the same footing as large employers with respect to the provision of employee health benefits,” the coalition statement reads. “Small employers – just like large employers – want to attract and retain talented workers and to keep their employees healthy and productive. As a result, small employers – just like large employers – want to offer comprehensive health coverage.”

The Coalition to Protect and Promote AHPs is attempting to work constructively with federal and state regulators to resolve some remaining policy and legal uncertainties so that AHPs can operate as the DOL envisioned.

This article was provided to OSAE by the Power of A and ASAE's Inroads.

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