Small businesses for decades have called for affordable health insurance options to provide workers and their families with comprehensive benefits that attract and retain quality workers.
While bipartisan congressional efforts have worked to achieve these goals, efforts to create association health plans have fought numerous political roadblocks, pitting large corporations and small businesses against each other.
The good news for small businesses across America is that the Trump administration has sided with the “little guy,” and this decades-old battle may soon be in the rearview mirror.
Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a new proposed rule on small business health plans that would give small business owners the opportunity to join together to purchase more affordable health-care coverage.
The proposed rule, which addresses what had commonly been referred to as association health plans (AHP), came in response to an executive order (EO) signed by the president in October.
Franchise business leaders joined the president at the White House for the signing, which instructed federal agencies to expand insurance options for small businesses, who have named the cost of health insurance as a top concern for decades.
Small businesses, especially franchises, are an economic powerhouse in America, accounting for nearly 60 million employees — almost half of the U.S. workforce, according to the Small Business Administration.
They are without a doubt the backbone of our economy and a significant force for job creation. Unfortunately, though, the current health-care law puts small businesses at a severe disadvantage and makes it nearly impossible for owners to provide their employees with quality coverage.
Over the last decade, the National Conference of State Legislators has found that small business owners pay between eight and 18 percent more than large firms for the same health policy. Why, you might ask? Because small business owners are forced to buy their insurance plans through the individual market, where there are few options. This is unlike large companies who buy insurance in a more competitive market with better-quality plans that cost less.
And as someone who works in the health-care industry, I understand firsthand the need for better health care policies. My company, BrightStar Care, provides home health-care services through our network of over 300 franchise locations nationwide. As a result, I have heard from countless health care consumers and my small business franchisees about the struggles related to the current health-care system. They all want better, more affordable health-care coverage.
Fortunately, the DOL’s proposed rule aims to level the health insurance playing field and provide small business owners and their employees with more options. The proposed rule would allow small businesses to form small business health plans through associations and organizations based on their industry or geographic location, including state, city, county, or a multi-state metro area. And because these plans would be purchased through the large market, small business owners and their employees would see significantly lower premiums and better plans overall.
This past year has been a great year of progress for small businesses and the economy. Congress and the administration have moved to cut regulations and overhaul the tax code, driving up economic optimism. While Congress still has work to do to address much-needed health-care reforms, President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE remains committed to bettering our health-care system.
I look forward to working with the administration on the implementation of the proposed rule and without a doubt believe it will benefit small businesses and their employees nationwide.
Shelly Sun is chair of the International Franchise Association (IFA) and founder of BrightStar Care, a U.S.-based franchisor with 300 franchisees who provide home health-care services.