A group of senators introduced legislation today to prevent thousands of people from losing their health care coverage after a federal judge struck down the Department of Labor’s Association Health Plans rule. This rule made it easier for small businesses to band together to provide their employees with comprehensive and affordable health insurance that has the same consumer protections that apply to large employer health plans.
The legislation, led by U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., would ensure the new pathway remains available for small businesses to offer Association Health Plans under the Department of Labor’s final rule.
“As a former small business owner, I understand firsthand the difficulties that employers face when trying to provide health insurance for their employees,” Enzi said. “Association Health Plans work for small businesses. They provide coverage to people who would not otherwise have it, and they provide comprehensive health benefits at an affordable price the same way larger employers do — the same way most folks get insurance. One family shoe store probably cannot get an insurance company to play ball, but 1,000 family shoe stores probably could.”
"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,” said Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Lamar Alexander. “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 regardless of the Democrat lawsuit."
Association Health Plans 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.
Roughly 30 Association Health Plans have formed under the rule so far. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about 4 million people are expected to enroll in an Association Health Plan by 2023, including 400,000 who would otherwise be uninsured.
The legislation was also cosponsored by U.S. Senators John Barrasso, R-Wyo., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Mike Braun, R-Ind., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Martha McSally, R-Ariz., John Thune, R-S.D., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, David Perdue, R-Ga., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., and Steve Daines, R-Mont.