Status Update on Association Health Plans
As you have seen in previous editions of the Advocate, Association Health Plans is one of the top items on our 2019-2020 NC REALTORS® Legislative Agenda. Already, two pieces of legislation have been filed both chambers of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 86 received hearings in March, was passed out of the Senate by a bipartisan vote, and now awaits House action. House Bill 464 was filed just last week and has already racked up thirty-nine sponsors in advance of its first hearing.
We continue to hear positive comments from leaders on both sides of the political aisle in support of our proposals.
Last week, a federal court in Washington, D.C. issued a decision that may impact the course of association health plans. The judge’s ruling blocks the Department of Labor’s rules from 2017 which allow for the creation of association health plans. This ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by 11 attorneys general which argued that the rules violated provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
We will likely see an appeal on this ruling, but in the meantime, the question remains: what effect will this have on the establishment of association health plans?
The short answer is that while we don’t know at this point, although at least one of the bills introduced in North Carolina doesn’t rely on the Department of Labor rules. The ruling muddies the water, but doesn’t mecessarily prevent us from at least one path forward.
Be assured, we will not give up the fight! This issue is too important to our members and other independent contractors to abandon. NC REALTORS® Government Affairs staff has been in constant communication with NAR staff and outside legal counsel who are reviewing this rule. We support NAR’s statement by President John Smaby in opposition to the ruling due to the importance of affordable health insurance options for members. And we will continue to work with the bill sponsors mentioned above to ensure that needed state legislative structures are in place should the ruling be overturned.
Make sure to join the NC REALTORS® Talk Health Insurance Facebook group for updates as they become available (NOTE: This is a closed group for NC REALTORS® only. You will need to provide your NRDS or license number to gain entry).