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Letter to the Editor: With association health plans, buyer beware

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Dear editor,

In an Industry Insight column in the July 16 issue, Lynne Haggerman wrote that the Donald Trump administration’s new rule encouraging small businesses, solo entrepreneurs and others to band together to purchase health insurance through association health plans will create “a new avenue to access affordable, quality health insurance coverage.” While it is true that some groups of small businesses might be able to purchase cheaper coverage through an association plan, that outcome will be the exception rather than the rule.

AHPs could make it easier for a few small businesses with younger and/or healthier employees to purchase health insurance, but the tradeoff is these plans will cause the insurance market for small businesses to split in two. Small businesses with older or sicker workers that can’t join AHPs would be left behind, forcing them to pay more for their health insurance.

What’s more, these plans are not required to include protections for people with pre-existing conditions nor will they be required to cover things like maternity care. 

And worst of all: If someone covered by an association plan gets sick and needs expensive treatments, that individual could be dropped from the plan – or the entire plan could be voided. 

While some organizations are including the 10 essential benefits in their plans, small-business owners need to be aware of these kinds of loopholes that could negatively impact their health and the health of their employees – and therefore their business.

Ultimately, it’s important to recognize the concept behind AHPs is not a new idea because small businesses already are allowed to work together to purchase health insurance through the small group market. And by encouraging more people to join or remain in the small group market, the lower premiums will be for all participants.

—Mary Overbey, the Springfield-based Missouri Outreach Manager for Small Business Majority

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