Last June, the Department of Labor (DOL) finalized regulations to expand the opportunity to offer employment-based health insurance to small businesses through Small Business Health Plans, also known as Association Health Plans (AHPs). However, earlier this month, a district court determined that the DOL’s regulations are unlawful, leaving in limbo the creation of new AHPs.
Now, a group of senators, led by Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, have introduced legislation that would ensure the new pathway remains available for small businesses to offer AHPs under the DOL’s final rule.
AHPs are intended to allow small businesses to group together and leverage power in numbers to obtain comprehensive and affordable health insurance as though they were a single large employer. The coverage offered to association members is subject to the consumer protection requirements that apply to the nearly 160 million Americans who receive coverage from large employers.
According to a press release on Enzi’s website, roughly 30 AHPs have formed under the rule so far. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about 4 million people are expected to enroll in an AHP by 2023, including 400,000 who would otherwise be uninsured.
“Association health plans offer millions of Americans in the individual health insurance market who have been left behind by Obamacare the opportunity to buy the same kind of lower-cost health insurance with the same patient protections as the roughly 160 million Americans who already get their insurance by working for a large employer,” says Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Senator Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee. “This legislation would make sure that working Americans who are uninsured, underinsured, or paying through the nose in the individual market can continue to have this option.”