And fulfills yet another campaign promise.
During the 2016 primary season, Donald Trump pledged to facilitate lower health insurance premiums by permitting coverage to be sold across state lines. Oddly, considering that conservatives have long advocated this as a way of augmenting market competition among insurers, the proposal was ridiculed by his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination. During one debate Marco Rubio actually mimicked Trump’s physical gestures, mocked his references to “lines around the states,” and snidely added, “whatever that means.” Friday, the Trump administration demonstrated what that means by issuing a new regulation allowing association health plans (AHPs) to offer coverage across state lines.
The new regulation, which was published in the Federal Register on January 5, will be available for public comment for 60 days. When it goes into effect, it will allow small employers to band together for the purpose of buying health insurance in the large group market. Specifically, it will “allow employers to form small business health plans based on geography or industry” and permit such plans “to serve employers in a state, city, county or a multi-state metro area.” It can be used to “serve all the businesses in a particular industry nationwide,” and also allows sole proprietors to join small business health plans. The Trump administration, via the U.S. Department of Labor, summarized its intended effect as follows:
These improvements stand to open health insurance coverage for millions of Americans and their families by making it more affordable for thousands of small businesses and sole proprietors. By joining together, employers may reduce administrative costs through economies of scale, strengthen their bargaining position to obtain more favorable deals, enhance their ability to self-insure, and offer a wider array of insurance options.