The US Department of Labor recently issued its Final rule on Association Health Plans.
The rule will allow associations to sponsor group health coverage,
And North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread believes it will help some people find affordable health insurance. Godfread said this will help a segment of the population that he believes was overlooked in the Affordable Care Act.
"It's our small-business owners, it's our farmers and ranchers," Godfread said. "It's the folks who don't belong to a larger group, who get their health coverage through a larger employer."
Godfread said the rule also allows an association to be formed for the sole purpose of offering health coverage to its members.
"It gives them a little more negotiating power," Godfread said. "It gives them more flexibility in terms of plan offerings. And it really should bring down the cost of coverage for those inividuals."
But Godfread cautions this is not a “silver bullet” for health care reform.
"Setting up an association health plan could be costly at first, especially in administrative costs," Godfread said. "But it may be a very good option for small businesses and farmers to look at, 'How do we come together and take advantage of our economies of scale to get into the large group market.'"\
Godfread said with the number of small businesses and farmers and ranchers in North Dakota, this could be significant.