Insurance regulators and insurance industry organizations want Congress to help small health insurance groups by giving tax breaks to health savings accounts, not by encouraging the formation of national association health plans.
Congress has been considering an HSA bill, H.R. 2351, and a national AHP bill, S. 545.
Supporters of the HSA bill, which was introduced by Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, say it would help small groups and other insurance buyers by creating accounts that would combine the best features of medical savings accounts, flexible spending accounts and health reimbursement arrangements.
The AHP bill, introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, would let small employers join plans organized by national associations. The association plans would be exempt from state health insurance mandates, just as self-funded plans are today.
Supporters for the AHP bill include many business groups, including the National Federation of Independent Business, Nashville, Tenn.
At press time, both the HSA bill and the national AHP bill were still in play.
Regulators at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Kansas City, Mo., and legislators at the Albany, N.Y.-based National Conference of Insurance Legislators have criticized the AHP proposal.
National AHPs could “cherry-pick” healthier groups, ignore solvency requirements and escape the authority of time-tested consumer-protection laws, NAIC President Mike Pickens argues in a letter to Congress.
An NCOIL resolution urges Congress to reject any legislation exempting AHPs and multi-employer welfare arrangements from state insurance standards and state regulatory oversight.
Federal preemption would weaken state efforts to protect consumers, allow “cherry-picking,” and undermine state insurance reforms that have improved health insurance access and affordability for small employers, NCOIL contends.
The American Academy of Actuaries, Washington, expressed similar concerns in April.