U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., spoke on the Senate floor today about legislation he introduced that would make it easier for small businesses to join Association Health Plans to help them provide affordable health care for their employees.
The legislation would cement a Department of Labor rule that was recently struck down by a federal District Court, threatening to disrupt health care coverage for tens of thousands of enrollees.
Association Health Plans let small businesses join together and negotiate with their shared power in numbers to obtain health insurance as though they were a single large employer.
“Small businesses ought to have the opportunity to band together in order to leverage their combined strength so they can negotiate and provide their employees with comprehensive and affordable health insurance coverage,” Enzi said. “That coverage should be subject to the same consumer protection requirements that apply to large employers offering similar coverage. Small businesses and their employees are the bedrock of our country’s economy, and proper health insurance coverage is a key element of family well-being and peace of mind.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, small businesses pay about eight to 18 percent more on average than large businesses for the same health insurance policy. In turn, the number of small businesses offering coverage has dropped substantially over the years, from 47 percent in 2000 to 30 percent in 2017.
“The Labor Department’s final rule didn’t just expand eligibility for a type of health insurance that’s long been available to some small business owners in the United States,” Enzi said. “It made the promise of comprehensive and affordable health insurance coverage a reality for the same Americans who have identified the cost of health insurance as the number one problem facing small businesses for the last 30 years.”
Roughly 30 Association Health Plans have formed under the new pathway since the Department of Labor finalized the rule. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about four million people are expected to enroll in an Association Health Plan by 2023, including 400,000 who would otherwise be uninsured.
“Association Health Plans work,” Enzi said. “They provide coverage to people who would not otherwise have it, and they provide comprehensive health benefits at an affordable price.”
See more of Enzi's remarks here.