WASHINGTON,– The National Association of Realtors® filed an amicus brief in defense of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Association Health Plan rule late last week. Amicus briefs are legal documents filed in appellate court cases by non-litigants that have a strong interest in the subject matter in question. Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that provisions of the DOL’s rule were unlawful, a ruling adversely impacting Realtors® seeking more cost effective and comprehensive health insurance solutions through AHP options. The Department of Justice is appealing the ruling and NAR’s amicus brief submission supports the DOJ’s appeal.
“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 reads. “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.”
NAR’s amicus brief discusses DOL’s lawful authority to expand access to AHPs by interpreting the working owner provisions to promote flexibility while not conflicting with existing statutes. NAR also describes the comprehensiveness of AHP coverage and the many successful plans already in place that are resulting in significant savings and benefits to many working owners.
“NAR is committed to ensuring our members can secure the health insurance coverage they need to provide for themselves and their families,” said NAR President John Smaby, a second generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota. “However, affordability concerns continue to serve as a barrier to securing sufficient affordable, quality insurance options for America’s 1.3 million Realtors®.
NAR was joined in this amicus brief by the five Realtor® associations offering AHPs to members, including the Baldwin County Association of Realtors® in Alabama; the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors®, the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors®, the Nevada Realtors®, and the Tennessee Realtors®. To date, over 3,000 Realtors® and their families have found cost-effective health insurance solutions through these state and local AHP options.
Many more Realtor® associations are also exploring AHP options but have been delayed due to this litigation uncertainty.
As of today, over 40 other state and local Realtor® associations and counting have also agreed to join the Amicus in support of the litigation.
If the courts final ruling is adverse and pending any appeals, independent contractors may lose the ability to access insurance coverage through an AHP, sacrificing valuable savings on premiums, and broader network access with more comprehensive benefits. Overall, AHP plans have proven to have lower cost options and better overall coverage, leading countless sole proprietors and small employers alike to purchase association health plans over the past year.
A member of the Nevada Realtors® Association who currently enrolled in an AHP with his wife, recently reported saving over $500 per month from his previous ACA plan. “My wife paid the penalty for four years and had no coverage until we got Obamacare last year,” he wrote. “I am diabetic, so health coverage is not an option for me as I have many doctor visits and high prescription costs. When we got on the AHP this year, we upgraded our coverage and now have a deductible, which is much lower and the overall coverage is much better. In other words, we went from the worst plan under Obamacare to the best plan under Hometown Health for Northern Nevada and still saved money on the monthly costs.”
“While NAR continues to explore and tackle barriers to a national AHP insurance option, we are learning from the many successes being implemented by state and local Realtor® associations,” Smaby continued. “These initial programs are helping us ensure our members and their families can secure these effective, affordable health insurance options moving forward. We must continue to protect the AHP options that so many Realtors® have come to rely on for coverage and so many more deserve access to, especially as health care costs continue to rise across the country.”
NAR is a founding member of the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans, which also submitted an amicus brief in this case. NAR recently created an updated map showing the state-by-state regulatory environment as it applies to working owners, which also links to a detailed chart outlining specific actions by individual states. Twelve attorney generals are party to the suit filed against DOL, challenging the AHP rule, including New York, Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, along with the District of Columbia.
The National Association of Realtors® is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.