Each time the subject of healthcare came across the national stage, I was surprised that there was no reference to expanding accessibility to group plans. Virtually all employers, big and small, know that rates are lower when a policy covers a large group. As an individual, I may not be able to afford a policy that offers the coverage I need at a price I can afford. However, if am eligible to purchase insurance through my employer, I may be able to get the coverage I want at a price I can afford. And the larger the company I work for, the more affordable a health insurance policy is likely to be.
Had Obamacare actually been about health care, as opposed to income redistribution, creating groups for individuals to join, would have been part of the plan to reduce premium costs. Now, it appears that the U.S. Department of Labor is considering a similar premise. According to Representative Rob Woodall of Georgia’s 7th Congressional District, “I hear from our friends and neighbors in the Seventh District regularly about the pros and cons of Obamacare, but lately, even those who support the law have been concerned about increasing costs and dwindling options. The Trump Administration has also been concerned about this problem, and the Department of Labor is stepping up with an attempt to fix it. On Friday, (January 5, 2018) the Labor Department announced a formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the Federal Register that expands opportunities for small businesses to band together to provide health insurance coverage to employees through Small Business Health Plans (SBHPs), otherwise known as Association Health Plans (AHPs). https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/ebsa/ebsa20180104
“The plans allow small businesses to group together so that they can negotiate with health insurance companies for lower premiums and better coverage for their employees – just like large companies and federal employees do today. As many as 11 million Americans are working for small businesses that are so small that they aren’t required to provide health insurance. I don’t want to mandate that they provide insurance, as that would likely bankrupt many of these businesses, but I do believe that it’s important to support these businesses if they want to provide health insurance to their employees. AHPs are a great way to offer that support, and they have long been supported by Congress.
The Labor Department is accepting comments for the next 60 days on its proposal, and if you or someone you know has a small business or is an employee of a small business that could benefit from AHPs, I encourage you to take a look at the proposal and share your comments with me and with the Labor Department.”
Also included in the Department of Labor’s plan is an option for sole proprietors to be able to join a group. As proposed, the rules for forming a group would be fairly loose; a group plan could serve employers in a state, city, county, or a multi-state metro area, or it could serve all the businesses in a particular industry nationwide. In essence, a group formed under the proposed plan would have the ability to access health plans at costs as those enjoyed by companies with 10s of thousands or even 100s of thousands of employees.
If you’d like your opinion heard, contact Eric Holland at the Department of Labor, and your Senator and Congressional Representative.
Phone Number: (202) 693-4676
Congressman Woodall may be reached at https://woodall.house.gov/
Phone Number (770) 232-2005