Business groups and their supporters have been trying to get interstate association health plan bills signed into law for decades.
Senate Republican leaders are now trying to put their weight behind the idea. They put an interstate association health plan proposal in the new Affordable Care Act change proposal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 draft.
(Related: Senate Republicans Unveil Health Care Plan)
Section 139 of the draft, which is available here, would create a Small Business Health Plans program.
Here’s a look at five things insurance agents and other financial professionals might want to know about the program proposal.
1. Association health plan programs create what amount to health insurance buying clubs for small businesses.
Many states already let small businesses join together to form one-state association health plans.
Those programs offer small businesses a chance to team up to get more attention from benefits brokers, and to bargain for better prices from health insurers, managed care companies and benefit plan administrators.
Federal interstate association health plan proposals would give small employers a chance to join multi-state, or national, health coverage purchasing groups.
For employers in states with insurance rules or business conditions that push up small-group premiums, joining an interstate association health plan program based in another state could be a way to take advantage of the lower premiums available in the other state.
Traditionally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some agent and broker groups have been strong supporters of interstate association health plan proposals.
Many state insurance regulators, many consumer and patient advocacy groups, some benefits brokers and many insurers have opposed the proposals. One argument against the proposals is that multi-state association health plans regulated by just one state would all rush to set up their headquarters in states with weak regulation.
Another argument against the proposals is that the employers with the youngest, healthiest employers will probably leave the programs, and that antiselection will eventually kill the programs.
2. The House passed an association health plan bill a few weeks ago.
House members voted 236-175 to pass H.R. 1101, the Small Business Health Fairness Act, 236-175, on March 22.
(Photo: Mike Scarcella/NLJ)