A Department of Labor proposed rule that would “expand the opportunity” to offer employment-based health insurance to small businesses through Small Business Health Plans, also known as Association Health Plans, is being lauded by the American Trucking Associations.

The DOL Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is “a step in the right direction for improving access to affordable, quality health care for all Americans,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “We were pleased in October when President Trump signed an executive order allowing self-employed individuals to pool together to purchase health insurance plans sponsored by larger associations and groups, and we are happy to see his Administration take the next step in advancing this plan today.”

ATA noted that trucking is “primarily comprised of small-businesses– with more than 90% of registered motor carriers operating fewer than six trucks – making it uniquely positioned to benefit from the establishment of association health plans.”

The rulemaking resulted from an executive order signed by Presdient Trump back in October to allow individuals to purchase health insurance through association health plans.

According to the Labor Department, the proposed rule, which applies only to employer-sponsored health insurance, would allow employers to join together as a single group to purchase insurance in the large group market.

“These improvements stand to open health insurance coverage for millions of Americans and their families by making it more affordable for thousands of small businesses and sole proprietors, said DOL. “By joining together, employers may reduce administrative costs through economies of scale, strengthen their bargaining position to obtain more favorable deals, enhance their ability to self-insure, and offer a wider array of insurance options.”

As proposed, the rule would:

  • Allow employers to form a Small Business Health Plan on the basis of geography or industry. A plan could serve employers in a state, city, county, or a multi-state metro area, or it could serve all the businesses in a particular industry nationwide
  • Allow sole proprietors to join Small Business Health Plans, clearing a path to access health insurance for the millions of uninsured Americans who are sole proprietors or the family of sole proprietors

DOL also stated that under the proposed rule, Small Business Health Plans (Association Health Plans) could not charge individuals higher premiums based on health factors or refuse to admit employees to a plan because of health factors. It added that the department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration will closely monitor these plans to protect consumers.

“President Trump and [Labor] Secretary Acosta should be commended for their leadership in increasing access to affordable health insurance for thousands of Americans through this action,” said ATA Chairman Dave Manning, president of TCW Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. “By allowing self-employed individuals and small businesses to pool their resources and offer affordable insurance options, this Administration is making good on its promise to improve our health care system.”

Related: ATA Supports President’s Health Insurance Executive Order