The U.S. Department of Labor is tapping the real estate industry for more information that could bolster its guidance for a national association health plan, even as the rule continues to face legal challenges.
National Association of REALTORS® CEO Bob Goldberg, along with eight other association executives, met with Acting Labor Secretary Patrick Pizzella on Thursday to discuss a host of issues impacting the nation’s 1.3 million REALTORS®. Goldberg specifically highlighted NAR’s support for AHPs and the Labor Department as the department defends its rule in court.
“REALTORS® should not be denied affordable, high-quality health insurance options just because they operate as independent contractors, or as small businesses of one,” Goldberg said after the meeting. “In states that have already begun offering AHPs to independent contractors, REALTOR® health plans have proven to be just as comprehensive as the Affordable Care Act while producing cost savings of 25% to 50% for our members.
“A reversal of the lawsuits challenging AHPs will ensure REALTORS® and their families can begin accessing these critical and potentially life-saving health care options.”
A dozen state attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of AHPs earlier this year, prompting a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to strike down the department’s rule. Such opposition has prevented national insurance providers from willingly offering NAR a comprehensive, nationwide association health plan.
Today, nearly a quarter million REALTORS® are “working owners” who cannot find affordable health insurance in the ACA markets. The National Association of REALTORS® has cautioned that the Labor Department’s rule, which was released in June 2018, is not a panacea when it comes to obtaining comprehensive coverage and the cost to provide that coverage. NAR contends that the lawsuits challenging AHPs are misguided. While NAR has advocated for association health plans for decades and been one of the most vocal supporters of the department’s rule, the association is working to secure a full and fair hearing in the U.S. Circuit Court.
NAR filed an amicus brief—a legal document filed by non-litigants who have a strong interest in the subject matter—in defense of the department’s lower court appeal in early June. More than 200 state and local associations supported NAR’s opinion. “Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act resulted in significant regulatory changes to the individual insurance market, some of which have benefited REALTORS®,” the brief read. “However, ACA changes have also resulted in significant increases in health care costs, leaving many individuals to forgo coverage, which jeopardizes the health, safety, and financial stability of their families and others.”
Pizzella was well-versed on NAR’s involvement in the AHP issue, taking time Thursday to thank Goldberg for the association’s advocacy and its work to solicit the support of state and local associations for its amicus brief.