Association Health Plans may soon be called Small Business Health Plans. The passage of tax reform opened the door for changes to Affordable Care Act “Obamacare” and association health plans are top on President Trumps list to tackle. On January 4, the Trump Administration (Department of Labor, which Secretary Acosta has confirmed he will be speaking at our conference next month), issued a proposed rule that would allow small business to band together and create association health plans (AHPs).
AHPs have always been a popular idea for ACCA members, and ACCA is working with the Department of Labor and other policy makers to make this happen. The Department of Labor’s proposed rule is open for comment for 60 days, and, as written, would allow employers to join together to form an employee group or association that is treated as the “employer” sponsor of a single multiple-employer “employee welfare benefit plan” and “group health plan.” ACCA will be submitting comments to the Department of Labor offering strong support from the HVAC contracting industry, and urging Congress to clear any barriers from their end.
Some healthcare advocates believe that, because the AHPs would be governed by state insurance rules, some of the essential health benefits covered under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would be voided. However, the Labor Department’s rule, as written, prohibits higher premiums based on a person’s health status. The Secretary of Labor believes that as many as 11,000,000 Americans working for small businesses and sole proprietors could be covered under the proposed rule.
Although we can’t give you an exact date when AHPs will be a reality for ACCA members, there is good potential this effort will be fast-tracked through the regulatory process quickly. Republicans are clamoring to add something related to Obamacare to their 2018 campaign messaging. While the AHP issue is not a legislative issue right now, we fully expect Republican Members of Congress to promote this as a benefit of a federal government run by Republicans.
We will continue to update ACCA Members on this, so stay tuned!