Chamber of Commerce files brief in support of association health plan rule

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a brief to uphold the association health plans rule. (Pixabay)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Litigation Center has filed a brief in support of the Trump administration's expansion of association health plans (AHPs), which was finalized in late 2018.

The brief was also signed by the National Federation for Independent Business, the Texas Association of Business, the United Service Association for Health Care and 65 state and local chambers from around the country. The Chamber has long supported allowing small businesses to work together to purchase coverage through AHPs, and a recent survey shows these employers still struggle to find insurance options for their employees.

Last June, the Trump administration finalized regulations to provide help to small businesses to work together via industry or geography to purchase plans. But in the nine months since the regulation was finalized, the D.C. District Court has ruled in favor of attorneys general from 11 states and D.C., agreeing that the rule is unlawful.

Critics argue that allowing for more AHPs would undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by encouraging individuals to buy cheaper plans with fewer benefits.

RELATED: Judge strikes down Association health plan rule 

According to a recent Chamber release, the number of small businesses offering health coverage has dropped from 47% in 2000 to 29% in 2016. And the AHP rule could newly insure up to 400,000 Americans (and provide renewal for 4 million people), according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Also, a recent MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index found that 25% of owners do not have enough information to make a decision about health insurance, and another 25% are concerned with keeping premiums low when evaluating healthcare plans.

“The Chamber continues to stand by the new AHP regulation after participating fully in the regulatory notice and comment opportunity. This is an important and comprehensive new coverage option for small businesses,” Katie Mahoney, vice president of health policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.

Written by co-counsel Michael McGinley and David Stern of Dechert LLP, the released brief is addressed to the U.S. Department of Labor and other defendants.

RELATED: AHIP, AHA express concern over lack of consumer protections in association health plan expansion

“This case raises an issue of significant importance to amici’s members and to all of America’s working owners and small businesses—the availability of real opportunities for working owners and small employers to access quality, affordable health insurance coverage,” the brief states.

The brief goes on to say that before the District Court’s rulings, a number of state and local chambers had created AHPs, and “this real-world experience confirmed that plans formed under the final rule were already significantly lowering premiums and vastly improving coverage options.”

In addition, the brief states that nothing prohibits the Labor Department from authorizing the pooling of resources by small business owners and that the final rule does not in any way hinder the work of the ACA; rather, these group plans are subject to the ACA.

“In short, the Department’s authorization of association health plans is a lawful and highly-effective solution that will improve the lives of working owners and the millions of Americans employed by small businesses. This Court should accordingly reverse the District Court’s decision and uphold the rule,” states the brief.