July 22, 2019
High-ranking House Democrats, Ivy League professors and a group of medical associations are among the latest to urge the D.C. Circuit to uphold a Washington, D.C., federal judge’s March decision to gut a Trump administration rule expanding access to association health plans.
 
The flurry of amicus briefs submitted Monday underscores the importance of the case, which asks the D.C. Circuit to decide whether small businesses and individuals should be able to eschew buying health insurance from the Affordable Care Act’s individual and small-group markets in favor of joining association health plans, which are typically sold on the large-group market.
 
Ten members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democratic leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, said U.S. District Judge John Bates correctly found that the regulation violates the Affordable Care Act.
 
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Judge Bates also ruled that the regulation violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a holding that a coalition of lobbying groups that represent workers, the elderly and people with disabilities referenced in their amicus brief in support of the judge’s decision.
 
The groups — which included the National Women’s Law Center and the National Employment Law Project — accused the federal government of trying to sabotage the ACA by creating an unlawful interpretation of ERISA’s definition of “employer.”
 
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Also speaking out against the rule were a group of 36 professors from universities such as Yale, Harvard and Columbia and policy wonks from groups like the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
 
In addition to praising Judge Bates’ opinion as legally sound, the academics and researchers spoke to the potentially harmful effects of allowing the AHP rule to stay on the books — namely, damage to the ACA’s individual and small-group markets.
 
“AHPs can offer lower premiums by attracting low-risk consumers. This will leave the ACA regulated small group and individual markets with higher cost enrollees and higher premiums,” the professors and researchers wrote.
 
Also weighing in to support Judge Bates’ ruling were a group of medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, which said the rule would “undermine the consumer protection provisions in the Affordable Care Act, leaving patients vulnerable to worse health outcomes and/or financial ruin.”
 
Several ex-DOL officials supported the ruling as well, saying the agency has never interpreted ERISA’s “employer” definition in the way the Trump administration is now asking it to. Joining the ex-officials were a group of former state insurance commissioners, who said association health plans have a history of financial instability and fraud and expanding them is a bad idea.
 
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The former U.S. Department of Labor officials are represented by Karen L. Handorf of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC.
 
The complete article can be accessed here.