Legislation was introduced last week in both the House and Senate to ensure small businesses and self-employed individuals continue to have access to association health plans (AHPs) under the Department of Labor’s AHP rule issued last year.

Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced a bill to prevent thousands of people from losing their health care coverage after a federal judge struck down the Trump administration’s rules expanding AHPs late last month. The Department of Labor is expected to appeal the ruling, but the Enzi-Alexander bill would codify the AHP rule that provides many working Americans the opportunity to buy the same lower-cost health insurance with the same patient protections as those plans offered by large employers. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI).

“Association Health Plans work for small businesses,” Enzi said. “They provide coverage to people who would not otherwise have it, and they provide comprehensive health benefits at an affordable price the same way larger employers do – the same way most folks get insurance. One family shoe store probably cannot get an insurance company to play ball, but 1,000 family shoe stores probably could.”

Both bills have been endorsed by ASAE and the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans, which pointed out that AHPs formed under the DOL rule are subject to the same coverage requirements that apply to ACA-compliant plans, contrary to some claims made by opponents of AHPs.

“Importantly, all AHPs are voluntarily covering all or virtually all of the ACA’s ‘essential health benefits,’” the coalition said in a statement. “The bottom line is that AHPs are not an ‘end-run’ around any federal or state law, despite recent assertions.”