Testimony: AHPs Offer Vital Insurance Option

March 20, 2018

The U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed rule expanding the use of association health plans is a step in the right direction, but more work must be done to refine the plan before making health insurance options available through AHPs, a prominent REALTOR® testified Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Michael McGrew, right, a former NAR treasurer, meets with Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, after McGrew’s Capitol Hill testimony.

Michael McGrew, CRB, CRS, a former treasurer of the National Association of REALTORS® and broker-owner of McGrew Real Estate Inc., in Lawrence, Kan., said independent contractors and small-business owners—including working owners who have no employees—should be eligible for coverage under an AHP, even if they already get health insurance through a spouse. “Nearly one-third of NAR’s members receive health insurance coverage through a spouse, partner, or family member, but that coverage might not be the most affordable option,” said McGrew, who testified before the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions.

Given the number of real estate professionals who receive health coverage through their spouse, restricting their eligibility for an association plan would constrain the size of the pool that could be insured, likely making insurance more expensive for members.

McGrew also said Congress needs to protect against states trying to regulate a large group AHP by reclassifying it as a small group plan. “There is concern in the association community that states may attempt to enact legislation or promulgate rules to recharacterize a fully insured large group AHP as a ‘small group’ health plan, thereby subjecting the fully insured AHP to the insurance rules applicable in the small group market,” he said. “Such state action could frustrate the intent of the rule, which is to expand access to AHPs in order to offer more affordable, better-quality health plans.”

The Department of Labor published its rule in January. Two weeks ago, NAR submitted comments to improve the rule for real estate professionals. The department could publish a final rule later this year. Congress is also looking at bills that could help encourage the launch of more AHPs, and NAR is supportive of those efforts.

—Robert Freedman, REALTOR® Magazine