In June, the U.S. Department of Labor expanded access to health coverage options for small businesses and their employees through Association Health Plans (AHPs).
AHPs allow small businesses and self-employed workers to band together by geography or industry to obtain healthcare coverage as if they were a single large employer, thereby providing, according to the Trump administration, more choice, access, and coverage. However, AHPs generally do not cover as much as other health plans, which could spur frustration and concern among both patients and doctors as they learn what an AHP actually covers.
The American College of Physicians, for one, opposes the introduction of the new plans. “As a physician, I know from experience how crucial it is that patients have access to insurance plans that meet full healthcare needs,” Ana María López, MD, FACP, ACP’s president, said in a statement after the ruling. “This rule will do the opposite.”
Proponents of the new rule argue that it will provide small employers the same opportunity for coverage available to large employers with self-insured plans. “Many of our laws, particularly Obamacare, make healthcare coverage more expensive for small businesses than large companies,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said in a statement.
A history of association plans
Kevin Lucia, MHP, research professor and project director at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, notes that since the 1990s, congressional proposals to create federally certified AHPs have been opposed by a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Opponents point to a history of association health plans that is rife with insolvency, fraud, loss of consumer protections, and market segmentation.