AWB Files Motion to Preserve Health Insurance for Small Business
OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business (AWB) filed a motion Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court seeking to enforce a 2007 judge’s ruling that preserved health care for thousands of small businesses and their employees who receive coverage through association health plans.
At issue is an attempt by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) to impose rating requirements that were struck down by the court following a 2007 lawsuit brought by AWB and Associated Industries. In 2007, the court ruled in favor of the associations.
Despite the ruling, the OIC is disapproving association health plan filings based on ratings that were expressly allowed by the 2007 judge’s ruling, claiming the new rating requirements are imposed by the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).
However, the ACA does not disallow association health plans. Further, AWB does not believe the ACA amended applicable federal laws such as ERISA and HIPAA that determine an association’s rating methodology, or how employers must offer benefits to employees. The same state insurance laws that applied in the 2007 lawsuit remain on the books today.
"Going to court is always the last resort," said AWB president Kris Johnson. "We disagree with OIC’s interpretations and are concerned the agency is going beyond its legal authority as it did in 2007. Today, the OIC is disapproving association health plan filings based on ratings that AWB believes go against what was struck down in the 2007 ruling. We concluded this action is necessary in order to protect the interests of small businesses that rely on us for affordable, quality health care coverage for their employees and families."
Association health plan legislation was enacted by the Washington Legislature in 1995 as a way to open doors to small employers who needed access to affordable, high-quality health insurance. Since then, they have become an important part of the health insurance system with an estimated 500,000 Washingtonians relying on an AHP for their coverage.
The goal of the law passed by the Washington Legislature in 1995 is consistent with the goals of the ACA which is to provide small employers with access to high-quality, affordable coverage. The 1995 reforms opened up a more competitive market for small employers and continue to work as intended. In addition, many of the services offered through association health plans are not available to small employers on their own.
"Offering high quality health care benefits to our employees and their families is very important to our company," said AWB member Junus Khan, founder and CEO of Carbitex in Kennewick. "Being able to obtain coverage through our business association, AWB, is extremely important because they understand our needs as a small business and represent our interests in many areas. With AWB HealthChoice, we have comprehensive benefits, top provider networks and high quality service at a price we can afford."
About the Association of Washington Business
Formed in 1904, the Association of Washington Business is Washington' oldest and largest statewide business association, and includes more than 7,900 members representing 700,000 employees. AWB serves as both the state’s chamber of commerce and the manufacturing and technology association. While its membership includes major employers like Boeing, Microsoft and Weyerhaeuser, 90 percent of AWB members employ fewer than 100 people. More than half of AWB’s members employ fewer than 10. For more about AWB, visit www.awb.org.