DOL Reverses Trump-Era ‘Multiple Employer’ Association Health Plan Rule

A Trump-era regulation that expanded the availability of Association Health Plans, and did not comply with certain consumer protections of the Affordable Health Care Act, has been rescinded by the Employee Benefits Security Administration.

The final Department of Labor rule issued this week reverses lax criteria the Trump administration finalized that made it easier for a group or association of employers to be treated as the “employer” when offering multiple-employer group health insurance, which effectively allowed more employers to offer health insurance coverage that evades several critical ACA consumer protections.

“The Department of Labor now believes that the provisions of the 2018 Association Health Plan Rule that the district court held as inconsistent with the Administrative Procedure Act and in excess of the department’s authority are, at a minimum, not consistent with the best reading of the statutory requirements governing group health plans,” explained Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Lisa M. Gomez. “Moreover, today’s action is consistent with the President’s directive to improve the comprehensiveness of coverage and ensure that consumers have access to quality coverage that is consistent with federal law.”

The department is rescinding the entire 2018 rule to resolve any uncertainty about the status of the standards the rule established, leaving in place longstanding pre-rule AHP guidance that numerous judicial decisions have consistently supported and relied upon. The 2018 rule from the Trump administration that expanded AHPs was struck down by a federal judge in 2019 and was never fully implemented.

“The department now believes that the core provisions of the 2018 association health plan rule are, at a minimum, not consistent with the best reading of ERISA’s statutory requirements governing group health plans,” the unpublished rule reads.

In a statement, Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina, chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, said, “The administration’s final rule fails on every mark, moving us backwards, not forwards, in providing Americans more ways to get high-quality, low-cost health care.”


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