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Realtors search for association health plan solutions

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America’s 1.3 million Realtors® should have access to comprehensive, lower-cost health insurance options through Association Health Plans (AHPs).

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a new regulation opening the door for smaller employers and self-employed individuals, including Realtors®, to join AHPs. Yet some states are suing to overturn the regulation and keep small businesses locked in the typically higher cost, more limited individual insurance markets.

{mosads}That’s not right.

AHPs enable employers to band together to increase their bargaining power with insurance companies and take advantage of economies of scale, which help keep cost down and improve access to care for plan participants and their families.

Realtors® are small businesses in the truest sense, forming entities of just one person – acting as both employer and employee. They are small businesses of one, and we see no reason make a distinction between large and small employers, and the self-employed.

In the months leading up to and since the DOL announcement, NAR has been focused on ensuring this change can indeed spur positive results for our members. And we remain committed to vigorously engaging insurers and regulators to reach that goal.

However, various legal challenges remain in our way.

A dozen state attorneys general filed suit against the DOL’s expansion of association health plans in an effort to keep those impacted locked in their own state individual and small group insurance markets. A number of other states already have or are considering conflicting guidance as to how the law should be implemented to limit access to AHPs.

Today, because of this disparity, we have a significantly fragmented regulatory environment. The result has left insurers apprehensive to offer any nationwide option due to concerns over how such plans will be implemented and treated in each state.

In fact, at this point, no insurer has stepped forward to offer a nationwide AHP option to NAR or any other national trade association.

To help assuage insurer concerns, NAR has helped co-found a broad, multi-industry coalition of associations to work with state and federal regulators in order to inject certainty and address potential concerns, including laws prohibiting AHP eligibility for the self-employed. NAR is also surveying and supporting state and local association efforts to determine potential options for members and their families in states that are supportive of AHPs.

This process remains fluid, but NAR is diligently searching for a solution on behalf of members. As we work toward that goal, NAR remains committed to pursuing health insurance options at the national and regional level with the help of legal experts, benefits partners and insurance consultants.

Regardless of the ongoing potential barriers, the National Association of Realtors® is excited at the prospect of new insurance plan options for America’s 1.3 million Realtors® and their families. We will continue to work with federal and state regulators to protect the interests of self-employed Americans and small employers while preserving the new flexibility provided by the final rule.

Elizabeth Mendenhall, a REALTOR® from Columbia, Mo., is the 2018 President of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR). She is the CEO for RE/MAX Boone Realty in Columbia and has been a REALTOR® for 20 years.

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