Benefits and Compensation

DOL Announces Small Business Health Plans Proposal

On January 4, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to expand the opportunity to offer employment-based health insurance to small businesses through Small Business Health Plans, also known as Association Health Plans.

Health plan

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Under the proposal, according to a DOL press release, small businesses and sole proprietors would have more freedom to band together to provide affordable, quality health insurance for employees.

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. 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

Under the proposed rule, Small Business Health Plans (Association Health Plans) would not be allowed to charge individuals higher premiums based on health factors or refuse to admit employees to a plan because of health factors. The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration would monitor the plans.

The NPRM was published in the Federal Register on January 5, 2018, and is available for public comment for 60 days. The DOL encourages interested parties to submit comments on the proposed rule.


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