Court Deals Blow to Association Health Plans

Late last week, U.S. District Judge John Bates dealt a blow to the Trump Administration when he rejected the Administration’s attempts to expand access to association health plans.

The Trump Administration’s final rule would have allowed small businesses and trade groups to band together to purchase health insurance or self-insure. In addition, it would have allowed association health plans to form based on a geographic test, such as a common state, city or county, or a metropolitan area across state lines.

Judge Bates, however, said the rule went beyond the Trump Administration’s authority under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). In his ruling, Judge Bates also said, “the Final Rule is clearly an end-run around the ACA,” noting, “as the President directed, and the Secretary of Labor confirmed, the final rule was designed to expand access to AHPs in order to avoid the most stringent requirements of the ACA.” The Trump Administration is considering all options moving forward, including an appeal.

In other Affordable Care Act-related news, Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Florida) introduced H.R. 1386, the “ENROLL Act,” in response to the Trump Administration’s significant cuts to funding for Navigators over the past two years. The bill would restore $100 million in funding for Navigators. The ACA originally created the Navigator program to assist consumers enroll in federally-facilitated plans.

The Big “I” opposes the legislation and has continuously advocated against funding navigators because it believes agents and brokers are best suited to help consumers with their health care needs. Earlier this week, the Energy and Commerce Committee marked up the legislation and passed it out of the committee in a partisan vote, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing the legislation.

Wyatt Stewart is Big “I” senior director of federal government affairs.