DOLbldg Photo: Wealth Management

Industry trade group backs proposed health plan ruling

Change in regulation would reportedly improve access to affordable health care.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) this past week said it welcomed a proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) making it easier for small businesses and self-employed individuals to purchase high-quality, lower-cost health insurance through expanded association health plans. 

The DOL announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to expand the opportunity to offer employment-based health insurance to small businesses through Small Business Health Plans, also known as Association Health Plans.

Up to 11 million Americans working for small businesses/sole proprietors and their families lack employer-sponsored insurance. These Americans could find coverage under this proposal.

“Many small employers struggle to offer insurance because it is currently too expensive and cumbersome,” the agency said. “These employees – and their families – would have an additional alternative through Small Business Health Plans, [which] would close the gap of uninsured without eliminating options available in the healthcare marketplace.”

Under the proposal, small businesses and sole proprietors would have more freedom to band together to provide affordable, quality health insurance for employees.

“[This] proposal is a step in the right direction for improving access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans,” said Chris Spear, ATA’s president and CEO, in a statement.

“We were pleased in October when President Trump signed an executive order allowing self-employed individuals to pool together to purchase health insurance plans sponsored by larger associations and groups, and we are happy to see his administration take the next step in advancing this plan today,” he added.

ATA noted that the trucking industry is primarily comprised of small-businesses, with more than 90% of registered motor carriers operating fewer than six trucks, making it uniquely positioned to benefit from the establishment of association health plans.

The proposed rule, which applies only to employer-sponsored health insurance, would allow employers to join together as a single group to purchase insurance in the large group market -- ultimately opening up health insurance coverage for millions of Americans and their families by making it more affordable for thousands of small businesses and sole proprietors, DOL said.

By joining together, employers may reduce administrative costs through economies of scale, strengthen their bargaining position to obtain more favorable deals, enhance their ability to self-insure, and offer a wider array of insurance options.

As proposed, the rule would:

  • Allow employers to form a Small Business Health Plan on the basis of geography or industry. A plan could serve employers in a state, city, county, or a multi-state metro area, or it could serve all the businesses in a particular industry nationwide; and
  • Allow sole proprietors to join Small Business Health Plans, clearing a path to access health insurance for the millions of uninsured Americans who are sole proprietors or the family of sole proprietors.

“President Trump and Secretary [of Labor Alexander] Acosta should be commended for their leadership in increasing access to affordable health insurance for thousands of Americans through this action,” added Dave Manning, president of TCW Inc. and ATA’s current chairman. “By allowing self-employed individuals and small businesses to pool their resources and offer affordable insurance options, this administration is making good on its promise to improve our health care system.”

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