President Donald Trump reduced AHP regulations in June 2018, making it easier for small businesses and other groups to offer health care plans to their members. AHPs are more affordable than the insurance plans made available through federal and state exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), because they allow AHP administrators to offer more options for their members and because these plans permit people to seek coverage as part of a larger group, rather than as individuals.
Under the new rule established under the Trump administration, AHPs can now be sold across state lines to members of the groups offering the plans.
Worked with Regulators
Land O’Lakes made sure to design its plans in compliance with Nebraska’s state insurance standards and laws, which differ from the laws in Minnesota, where the company is located, Ramge says.
“[Land O’Lakes is] in good standing with us,” Ramge said. “They’ve done everything they needed to do to make sure they’re certified to offer these plans in Nebraska under the rule set out by the Trump administration.”
The AHP plans offered by Land O’Lakes are far more affordable than plans offering similar coverage on the Obamacare exchange, and the Nebraska Department of Insurance is in favor of their sale, Ramge says.
“Land O’Lakes’ plans are running 25 to 30 percent lower than comparable plans on the exchange,” Ramge said. “We in this office are always in favor of making available other options to people looking for lower-cost insurance options.”
More Affordable Care
Land O’Lakes, a farmer-owned cooperative, is one of the first companies to take advantage of the Trump administration’s relaxation of restrictions on AHPs.
Pamela Grove, senior director of benefits for Minnesota-based BuyPoint Insurance Solutions, the Land O’Lakes subsidiary offering the new AHP plan, says the two-state market area increases the affordability of the plans, as roughly 44,000 farmers will be eligible to apply for the insurance coverage in Minnesota and Nebraska, giving them an important new option.
“If there’s only one option out there for them right now, and it isn’t feasible, then this becomes their viable option,” Grove said. “And I like competition. It drives us to ensure that we continue to offer good coverage at affordable prices and offer good customer services and some tools and education for those employees, because a lot of them are not health care-savvy. They are looking for people they can trust, and luckily they trust Land O’Lakes.”
In several states, including Nebraska, Obamacare exchange insurance is unaffordable and providers are sparse, says Chris Condeluci, a health care policy consultant and attorney who worked with Land O’Lakes on its plan. Unfortunately, opponents of AHPs have managed to convince some people the plans offered under the new rule will be less robust than Obamacare plans, Condeluci says.
“Critics have done a very good job of messaging that association health plans are going to offer skimpy coverage, but the facts to date do not corroborate that claim,” said Condeluci. “These are member-based organizations, and if they offer skimpy coverage, their members are going to leave and they’re certainly not going to attract new members.”
‘Another Really Good Choice’
Ramge says the Land O’Lakes AHP “will offer another really good choice for individuals who either don’t receive a subsidy and cannot afford coverage on the exchange or for some reason prefer not to purchase that coverage.”
The State of Nebraska “bent over backwards to help us get [the plan] out and approved as soon as possible,” Grove said. Land O’Lakes is offering eight AHP plans in Nebraska: one Platinum Plan, one Gold Plan, three Silver Plans, and three Bronze Plans. They feature a range of deductibles and provide coverage for each category of health benefits deemed “essential” under the ACA, including prescription drugs, maternity care, mental health, and substance abuse treatment.
Cory Compton (thecomptonjr@ gmail.com) writes from Cheboygan, Michigan.