RISMedia's Real Estate Magazine

APR 2018

Real Estate magazine is the industry's leading source for real estate news and information since 1980. Published monthly by RISMedia, Real Estate magazine offers timely and relevant real estate news to the industry's top brokers and agents.

Issue link: http://remag.rismedia.com/i/958872

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Page 19 of 126

RISMedia's REAL ESTATE April 2018 15 {Policy Matters} H ealth care reform con- tinues to be a primary concern for the adminis- tration and Congress; however, comprehensive "repeal and re- place" efforts have lagged in momentum lately, losing support in favor of more attainable leg- islative goals. The administra- tion has since turned to smaller, targeted fixes to provide relief to Americans lacking affordable health insurance options. Last year, the White House released an executive order directing the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury to consider ways to promote increased choice and competition in the health insurance markets. One way the ad- ministration aims to accomplish this is by allowing more small business- es and self-employed individuals to band together to obtain health insur- ance through an Association Health Plan, or AHP . To implement this administra- tive priority, on Jan. 6, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a "Notice of Proposed Rulemak- ing" recommending changes to increase access to AHPs. This ac- tion has been of significant interest to self-employed individuals, small business owners, and those advo- cating on behalf of these groups, including the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). For well over a decade, NAR has advocated for reforms to the health insurance markets to provide better coverage to the self-employed and small employers that support the real estate industry, including back- ing AHPs. The proposed rule could provide a framework that may allow the self-employed and small employ- ers to purchase health insurance in the large group insurance market, in- stead of the more volatile and costly individual and small group markets where real estate professionals tra- ditionally purchase insurance. As more insurance companies drop out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces, driving up costs, the promise of additional insurance op- tions through AHPs are greatly wel- comed by the real estate industry. Proposed Rule The proposed rule would broaden the definition of "employer" to in- clude so-called "working owners" (i.e., sole proprietors, independent contractors or the self-employed) under the Employee Retirement In- come Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which is the federal law governing employer-sponsored group health plans. The proposed rule would also expand DOL's "commonality of inter- est" test, which allows employers to band together in an AHP if they are in either the same trade or line of busi- ness, or if they have a principal place of business within the same region of a state or the same metropolitan area. With these proposed changes, small businesses and self-employed individuals that join an AHP would enjoy insurance options that are not subject to certain ACA small group and individual market rules, such as specific benefit requirements, which may limit choices and boost premi- ums. While still subject to state ben- efit mandates, most AHPs could offer small employers and self-employed individuals more flexibility in health plan design and pool participants on a larger scale that may result in over- all lower insurance costs. NAR supports the rights of individ- uals to be able to choose their pre- ferred health insurance plan from an array of options that offer a variety of covered services and policy costs. NAR submitted a comment in strong support of DOL's efforts to increase such options, and recommended changes to eligibility requirements to maximize participation by self- employed real estate professionals. DOL will be reviewing the hun- dreds of comments submitted and issue a final rule reflecting that feed- back, likely later this year; that rule could then be used by insurers for plan design. However, it is antici- pated that the final rule may be sub- ject to legal challenges that could delay implementation. NAR will be closely following this progress and the potential benefits for real estate professionals across the country. For more information, stay tuned to https://www.nar.realtor/health-care- reform. RE Christie DeSanctis is NAR's government affairs policy repre- sentative on business issues. The Administration Proposes Targeted Relief for Rising Health Insurance Costs This column is brought to you by the NAR Real Estate Services group. by Christie DeSanctis

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