The early returns on association health plans (AHPs) – expanded by the Trump administration earlier this year to give small businesses and self-employed workers more options for coverage – are encouraging, according to recent reports.

Most of the early AHPs that have formed or expanded since the Department of Labor’s June rule cover pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits defined in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and are still able to offer lower premiums than comparable plans on the individual insurance exchange, according to sources in a Nov. 10 article in Modern Healthcare.

Modern Healthcare reviewed documents for several new or expanded AHPs and found that they “feature a range of deductibles and appear to provide coverage for each category of essential health benefits.”

Premiums for these plans are in some cases 15%-25% lower than the cost of an individual policy sold through the ACA exchanges, the report said.

“Critics have done a very good job of messaging that association health plans are going to offer skimpy coverage, but the facts to date do not corroborate that claim,” said Chris Condeluci, a health policy consultant who is helping ASAE manage The Coalition to Protect and Promote AHPs. “These are member-based organizations, and if they offer skimpy coverage, their members are going to leave and they’re certainly not going to attract new members.”

The Coalition to Protect and Promote AHPs is working with federal and state policymakers to strike the right balance between regulating AHPs and providing the flexibility for associations to provide comprehensive plans to their small employer and self-employed members.