Big ‘I’ Comments on Association Health Plans

Earlier this week, the Big “I” sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DOL) regarding a proposed rule intended to expand access to association health plans (AHPs). AHPs enable small businesses and trade groups to band together to purchase health insurance or self-insure.

Big “I” members have expressed conflicting views on the regulation. While some support it, others are concerned about how it might impact the employer-sponsored health insurance market.

In the comment letter, the Big “I” focused on two consensus points. First, independent agents and brokers play an important role in placing health insurance, and as such, any changes to AHP regulations must maintain an appropriate role for agents and brokers. Second, the DOL should defer to state insurance regulation—particularly in the vital areas of AHP solvency regulation and consumer protection.

The DOL could finalize a regulation as soon as this summer.

The regulation follows an October executive order directing federal agencies to explore AHP options as well as expand access to short-term health plans. In February, the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Treasury Department and DOL, also issued a proposal to increase the time period during which an individual can use short-term limited duration health insurance.

Comments on the short-term proposal are due by April 23.

Jennifer Webb is Big “I” federal government affairs counsel.