From the Executive Director: Association Health Plans Update

From the Executive Director
Walter Bacak, CAE

Health insurance continues to be a top concern. We often hear from members asking why ATA doesn’t offer a health insurance program. We wish we could.

All associations—big and small, national and regional—are dealing with the same challenges today. Association Health Plans (AHPs) have come and gone over the years as laws and regulations have been introduced, such as the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier this year, I attended “The Changing State of Play for Association Health Plans (AHPs),” a one-day conference sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Coalition to Protect and Promote. (ASAE is the association for associations.)


Insurance is state-controlled, and each state has its own requirements for offering a program. There are two types of AHPs.

  • The old model that went out of business with the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. This model was for trade associations (company members as opposed to individual members) offering coverage in a specific industry to employees who were not self-employed. It was typically offered nationwide.
  • The new model came into play with a presidential executive order. This model included coverage for the self-employed, typically in the same state.

Earlier this year a court order froze creating new AHPs.

Presentation Notes

The ASAE conference offered two panel presentations: one from early adopters and the other from providers. (The idea of talking with providers really attracted me to this briefing, as we have struck out finding providers. The providers turned out to be software companies or administrators, not actual health care insurance providers.)
Here are some comments from the presentations:

  • There is no question there is strong interest in AHPs.
  • National Association of Realtors (1.3 million members): There is no plan at the national level. They cannot get a clean national plan. They have worked with five of their local chapters to establish local plans.
  • National Restaurant Association: Plans in 30 states. Health insurance co-ops are not financially viable. Their coverage is for small businesses (less than 100 employees). I talked to this presenter at a break. I asked him how the members in the 20 states where the association doesn’t have plans are taking it. His response: not well!
  • There is a political element to AHPs. AHPs are seen as another way to chip away at the Affordable Care Act.
    There are no national providers. They are sitting on the sidelines to see where the regulations go and trying to determine the market and risk. (Will AHPs only attract older, sicker individuals who are less profitable
    to cover?)
  • All programs are different. There is no boilerplate. There is no unicorn plan for individual coverage.
  • State insurance commissioners are reluctant to relinquish control and allow AHPs to operate in their states without having the AHPs meet their respective state requirements.

Although the briefing offered reassurance that we had not missed anything, it was still deflating because there is no easy answer.
We will continue to monitor AHPs.

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