The U.S. House of Representatives recently took action to make it easier for small businesses to offer employee health coverage through association health plans (AHPs). These plans, which offer businesses and other association members access to more affordable insurance plans than they can procure individually, have long been appealing but not widely available. If this bill passes the Senate and the President signs it into law, all that may change for the better.
On March 22, right before the Affordable Health Care Act vote was postponed, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1101 – the Small Business Health Fairness Act Of 2017. The bill changes the rules for multi-employer health plans, such as those involved with AHPs, by allowing them to cross state lines. That’s a huge benefit for small businesses and the associations that serve them, because it enables businesses across the nation—from Oregon to Florida and beyond—to participate in the same multi-employer health plan.
Not only could this bill expand the availability of these plans; it also might result in lower rates, as more small businesses would be able to participate. Any business owner who has looked for or purchased insurance knows that when it comes to reducing premiums, size matters. Spreading risk is a key factor in keeping premiums affordable.
The bill also preserves the benefits afforded small businesses in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, since it also allows small employers to belong to other employer groups across state lines, thereby maintaining common benefits.
As of this writing, the Senate has not taken up the bill. Although the White House has released a statement supporting the effort, legislative affairs experts believe it may face a hurdle in the Senate, due to the large number of Senators who tend to vote fiscally conservative. Nevertheless, with many constituents expressing concern about access to healthcare, these Senators might moderate their stances.
Although Marathon never advocates for its clients to take specific political positions, we hope all small business owners will tell their Senator how they feel about this bill. To find contact information for your Senator, click here.