Twelve “blue state” attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, are taking the Trump administration to court over its final rule allowing the creation of newly invigorated Association Health Plans (AHPs).
The coalition is targeting a final rule issued by the Department of Labor (DOL), which loosens and expands the definition of employer in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which in turn enables the creation of multi-employer, multi-state association health plans (AHPs). In the past, AHPs could function within state boundaries but with strict inclusionary policies, but most were forced out by the essential health benefits (EHBs) standard of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).
The new rule allows even the self-employed to join an AHP.
“The Trump administration’s AHP Rule is nothing more than an unlawful end run around the consumer protections enshrined in the Affordable Care Act — part of President Trump’s continued efforts to sabotage our health care system,” Underwood said in a statement about the suit.
“Our lawsuit today seeks to safeguard federal protections under the ACA that help guarantee access to quality, affordable health care.”
ERISA previously required a “common interest” standard for AHPS, the attorneys general argue in their lawsuit, while the new rule allows geographical qualifications by state or municipality, as well as common industry qualification across state lines.
“DOL is exploiting its regulatory authority at the request of the president to circumvent Congress, which has repeatedly refused to amend the law to authorize the expansion of AHPs,” the coalition says. “DOL is effectively legislating changes to the ACA’s carefully considered market structures in defiance of Congress in order to undermine the ACA’s robust consumer protections.”
The DOL counters that Congress granted it rulemaking and implementing powers when ERISA was enacted in 1974.