Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that provisions of a U.S. Department of Labor rule, which expanded access to association health plans to real estate professionals, were unlawful. The Department of Justice is appealing the ruling, joined in support by the National Association of REALTORS® and a growing number of voices within the real estate community.
NAR has filed an amicus brief in support of the Labor Department’s association health plan rule, which it credits for getting more affordable health insurance to real estate professionals. More than 40 state and local REALTOR® associations have also agreed to join the amicus curiae brief in support of the litigation. Five REALTOR® associations that offer an AHP to their members also joined (Baldwin County Association of REALTORS® in Alabama, Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS®, Kansas City Regional Association of REALTORS®, Nevada REALTORS®, and Tennessee REALTORS®).
Last year, the Department of Labor issued final regulations that allowed self-employed individuals who meet certain requirements to participate in a health plan sponsored by a group or association of employers. This type of health plan is known as an association health plan or AHP.
More than 3,000 real estate professionals and their families use health insurance solutions through state and local AHP options. Several REALTOR® associations have also been exploring AHP options, but have delayed their search due to recent litigation uncertainty, NAR notes.
“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®,” NAR’s amicus brief reads. “However, [the Affordable Care Act] 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.”
NAR argues that the recent federal court ruling could adversely impact REALTORS® who are seeking more cost-effective and comprehensive health insurance solutions through association health plan options. NAR argues that the rule could jeopardize independent contractors’ ability to access insurance coverage through AHPs, preventing them from accessing savings on premiums and broader network access. NAR notes in its amicus brief that AHPs have been shown to offer lower-cost options and better overall coverage, which in turn has prompted more sole proprietors and small employers to purchase AHPs over the past year. Some members have noted savings of more than $500 per month by switching to an AHP.
“These initial programs are helping us ensure our members and their families can secure these effective, affordable health insurance options moving forward,” says NAR President John Smaby. “NAR is committed to ensuring our members can secure health insurance coverage they need to provide themselves and their families. However, affordability concerns continue to serve as a barrier to securing sufficient affordable, quality insurance options for America’s 1.3 million REALTORS®.”
About 30 percent of NAR members purchase health coverage in the individual insurance market (or small group insurance market for those with employees), which is often more volatile and more expensive than the large group market where AHPs operate. NAR research last year showed 14 percent of members have no health insurance.
NAR is a founding member of the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans, which also submitted an amicus brief in this case. Read more about NAR’s health care reform.