LABI proves association health plans could be the fix Republicans are looking for

What shape will health care reform take? That’s the question on everyone’s mind with President Trump and Republicans in Congress determined to repeal and replace (or repair) the Affordable Care Act. As the President and Congress consider all available options, they should look to resurrect a type of plan that fell by the wayside under the ACA.

Association health plans allow for widespread health care coverage while maintaining Republicans’ small government values, and would be a welcome addition to health care reform for businesses of all sizes. As Congress looks for a solution, it may be time to turn the spotlight back onto these less familiar plans.

Updating the association health plan

Association health plans enable businesses of all sizes to pool their resources in order to get better coverage and lower prices on insurance coverage. They’re effective and beneficial for employers, employees, and insurance companies.

They lost popularity under the ACA, which favored co-ops, but luckily health care reform now has the opportunity to bring them back to the forefront. Decades-long test cases show exactly why encouraging such plans could improve health care access.

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s (LABI) Benefits Center, underwritten by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, is one such example of a strong, successful, and long-lasting association health plan at work. LABI’s comprehensive Benefits Center gives members access to ancillary insurances (life, vision, dental, etc.), HR and payroll solutions, and even ACA support tools.

Why LABI Benefits Center works

LABI’s Benefits Center works for two simple reasons: It benefits all parties involved, and it’s properly managed. It’s a fully insured plan, which has given it the stability and reliability to run successfully for over 30 years.

Similar to a large business, the plan gets its power from its numbers. First, smaller employers without much bargaining power are able to band together for some extra negotiating clout, resulting in lower costs and better benefits. Second, an insurance provider gains a large block of business with a big pool sharing the cost and risk. And third, a business association provides its members with something of value, which boosts its businesses’ competitiveness among potential employees and allows for growth. All sides win, so long as the plan is properly managed and maintained.

The Benefits Center has covered, at any one time, up to 40,000 people and 1,600 employer groups in Louisiana. This allows them to negotiate with the insurance company as time goes on, adding benefits, negotiating prices, and increasing coverage as the market expands.

The plan also allows for flexibility—members can pick and choose to add benefits that they see as beneficial to them. In addition, the power of the block means that benefits can be renegotiated to adapt with the times.

The answer health care reform needs

While association health plans have spent the last few years swept under the rug under the ACA, LABI’s Benefits Center is proof that they work, can adapt to the market, and truly benefit members. Like any other successful insurance practice, they require strong management in order to make sure the benefits are updated, the plan’s value maintained, and the funds properly appropriated—but when this is done, they are strong and successful.

LABI’s Benefits Center does everything that health care reform is looking to do—it expands coverage, offers choice, makes insurance affordable, and is an innovative, highly adaptable solution. Other association health plans could certainly see results similar to what Louisiana has seen under LABI’s Benefits Center.

Congress should include association health plans in their health care reform proposals—the success of LABI proves that such plans work, not only in the short-term, but the long-term as well.