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Association Health Plans to offer more coverage and lower costs

To the editor:

Families purchasing health insurance in Illinois know they’re up against fewer plan options and monthly premiums that go up every year, sometimes more than 50 percent. Fortunately, we can act right now to stabilize insurance markets and give families in Illinois health insurance they can choose and afford. 

While the Affordable Care Act’s individual market is volatile and home to few plans with rapidly increasing premiums, 151 million Americans are covered through an employer in a market that has remained remarkably stable and affordable. In fact, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the annual premium for an employer-sponsored family plan increased by an average of only 3 percent last year – making 2017 the sixth year in a row that the cost of plans in the employer market have increased less than 5 percent. 

Unfortunately, Americans who work for very small companies in America are being left out of the benefit of consistently low-cost, comprehensive health coverage. 

I was pleased to see the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a rule in January that would allow these small companies to band together to create Association Health Plans. These plans allow employees to purchase their health insurance through a group of employers, rather than their employer alone, typically giving them more coverage options at a lower cost. Additionally, the proposed rule keeps protections for AHP enrollees who have pre-existing conditions, it prevents lifetime limits on coverage and it requires plans to allow parents to cover children up to age 26. 

These are exactly the kinds of market reforms we need to drive down the cost of health insurance in Illinois and across the country. By giving small businesses and their employees more flexibility and choice, millions of Americans will have access to more affordable coverage that meets their families’ needs.

Randy Hultgren

Illinois’ 14th District U.S. representative

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