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There is good news at last for the millions of small businesses nationwide that have struggled to find affordable health insurance. Last week the Trump administration released a new rule expanding Association Health Plans (AHPs), which will allow small businesses to finally offer their employees the same type of coverage that large businesses have had for years.
AHPs are a way for small businesses and self-employed Americans to band together, whether by industry or geography, to enroll in a single group health plan that will cover far more employees than a plan used by an individual small business. Under the rule, these companies and their employees will have additional choices for health coverage. Because AHPs will cover so many people, these plans will be governed by rules that apply to large group plans, which are far less prescriptive, allowing coverage to be significantly more affordable.
Previously, the unequal treatment of large and small companies left smaller employers with a stark choice: either pay for high-priced comprehensive plans or offer no health coverage at all. Is it any wonder that the number of small businesses offering coverage has fallen in recent years?
Thanks to AHPs, that trend may soon reverse. According to the Congressional Budget Office, some 400,000 currently uninsured Americans are expected to attain coverage due to last week’s rule. In total, an estimated 4 million Americans will enroll in and benefit from new AHPs. State and regional chambers of commerce and other associations are eager to offer meaningful AHP coverage at a cost that member companies and their employees can afford—while preserving important consumer protections and nondiscrimination provisions.
This regulation will provide welcome opportunities for small businesses, but much more still needs to be done to expand access to affordable health coverage choices for all Americans. Many of these additional reforms will require congressional action, which is why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is continuing to work with Congress to achieve the long-standing goal of a modern, stable, and affordable health care system.
Nonetheless, AHPs are a major step in the right direction for small businesses and the millions of Americans who will now be able to buy lower cost health insurance plans. The Chamber applauds President Trump, Labor Secretary Acosta, and Health and Human Services Secretary Azar for making this a reality. And we look forward to working with them on further improvements to American health care.