Led by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., senators introduced legislation to prevent thousands of people from losing their health care coverage after a federal judge struck down the Department of Labor's Association Health Plans (AHPs) rule.
AHPs allow small businesses to band together to create an economy of scale that increases their bargaining power, lowers administrative costs and mitigates risk.
"Premiums on the Obamacare exchanges have skyrocketed at the same time that many small businesses have stopped providing coverage," said Blunt. "With all the challenges under Obamacare, we should be looking at ways to expand choices and lower costs for families. AHPs offer an affordable option, especially for sole proprietors like family farmers. AHPs have a track record of success in Missouri and this bill will ensure they continue to be available."
The coverage offered to association members is subject to the consumer protection requirements that apply to the nearly 160 million Americans who receive coverage from large employers.
Roughly 30 AHPs have formed under the rule so far. According to the Congressional Budget Office, about 4 million people are expected to enroll in an AHP by 2023, including 400,000 who would otherwise be uninsured.
As Blunt noted in an op-ed last year, the Missouri Association of Manufacturers formed a plan similar to an AHP with 32 companies in 2006, allowing six of those companies to offer coverage to their employees for the first time. A second plan formed in 2010 brought premium costs down by 60 percent, according to the organization. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce created an AHP at the end of 2017 and, within six months, was offering insurance to more than 5,000 people.
In addition to Blunt, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (Wyo.), John Cornyn (Texas), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.), Jim Inhofe (Okla.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), John Thune (S.D.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Mitt Romney (Utah), Cindy Hyde-Smith (Miss.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), David Perdue (Ga.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Steve Daines (Mont.), and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).