Association Health Plans

by Vikki Nelson

Hereís an opportunity for you to keep a trail on legislation that often times affects more than just some of us.

Small businesses donít always have the same chances as large corporations. For example they may be proprietors - even small corporations. But they donít have the buying power for group health plans. They have a few employees and certainly want to give them all health coverage but it is really costing a lot lately. And going up. But a lot of small business owners belong to associations and, if you think about it, if several members of these associations could get together they would have the buying power that larger companies have.

In Maryland we donít have that buying power yet. But there is hope. I belong to NFIB - National Federation for Independent Business - a very good lobbying association in my estimation. Just to further make my point, this week they have kicked off a new lobbying campaign in support of legislation that would help millions of small business owners and their employees get more affordable health insurance with Association Health Plans (AHPs.)

The kickoff of NFIBís new lobbying campaign coincided with the introduction of new AHP legislation in the US Senate and House of Representatives, which was announce at a bipartisan, bicameral news conference in the U.S. Capital on Tuesday. The renewed push for AHPs includes a new coalition web site, that will serve as a central source for news, information and facts about the AHPs.

AHPs would encourage more competition and efficiency in the health care marketplace, and that would help small business owners save as much as 25 percent on their health insurance premiums. Unfortunately, the monopolistic opponents of increased competition are spreading one phony myth after another to anybody willing to listen. This new web site is a great way for reporters and the public to learn the truth about AHPs - and to see how the rhetoric and red herrings from the big insurance monopolies just donít make sense.

AHPís would allow small business owners to band together across state lines through their membership in bonofide associations just like NFIB or the Chamber of Commerce to purchase health insurance for their families and employees. This would give the small business owners the same right to more affordable health care that labor unions and Fortune 500 companies already enjoy by operating under one set of federal regulations instead of dealing with the inefficiencies of 50 different sets of state mandates.

Savings would also come from basic economies of scale. Just like buying a case of soda at a supermarket costs less per can than buying 24 individual cans at a vending machines, AHPs would allow groups like NFIB or the Chamber of Commerce to buy thousands of health insurance policies at a lower per policy cost and could pass those savings along.