By Adam Cancryn
POLITICO, July 19, 2018
President Donald Trump handed an influential business advocacy group what should have been a historic lobbying victory when he recently rolled out new rules encouraging small businesses to band together to offer health insurance.
Trump, who’s touted the expansion of so-called association health plans as a key plank in his strategy to tear down Obamacare, even announced the rules at the 75th anniversary party of the National Federation of Independent Business last month, claiming the group’s members will save “massive amounts of money” and have better care if they join forces to offer coverage to workers.
But the NFIB, which vigorously promoted association health plans for two decades, now says it won’t set one up, describing the new Trump rules as unworkable. And the NFIB isn’t the only one: Several of the nationwide trade groups that cheered Trump’s new insurance rules told POLITICO they’re still trying to figure out how to take advantage of them and whether the effort is even worth it.
That could signal there’s minimal early interest in an initiative the administration says will help lower health care costs — and one that Trump himself has prematurely hailed as a wild success. Trump falsely claimed during rallies in recent weeks that “millions” are signing up, though the new health plans can’t be sold until Sept. 1.
Behind the scenes, the NFIB had already been souring on the idea before Trump’s announcement, concluding that establishing an association health plan would be too complex and not worth the effort. The NFIB, which offered only a vague endorsement of the Trump effort last month, now says it’s abandoned any idea of setting up a national plan for its hundreds of thousands of members.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
For a couple of decades the concept of association health plans (AHPs) has been vigorously promoted by organizations such as the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) since AHPs would satisfy the desire to nominally provide health insurance to small business employees at a lower cost than traditional health plans, made possible by the deficiencies in coverage that characterize most of these plans.
Now that the Trump administration is making AHPs available as a replacement for plans established by the Affordable Care Act, the reality seems to be sinking in. The NFIB “now says it’s abandoned any idea of setting up a national plan for its hundreds of thousands of members.”
Small business owners do want to have health insurance for themselves and for their employees. For those who were hoping that AHPs would be the answer, they do not have to give up hope. They should turn to a far better prospect – a single payer improved Medicare for all. Not only would the coverage be far more effective, the costs would also be affordable because the financing mechanism is equitable, based on ability to pay.
Instead of pie-in-the-sky AHPs, the NFIB should take a serious look at an improved Medicare for all – the best model for small businesses and for everyone else.
Stay informed! Visit www.pnhp.org/qotd to sign up for daily email updates.