Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin has joined 15 other states in supporting a Trump administration rule that would allow small businesses to sign up for health insurance plans that don’t comply with protections required by the Affordable Care Act.
The policy, which has been blocked in federal court, would allow small businesses or groups of people to sign up for “association health plans” that are exempted from covering prescription drugs, emergency services and mental health treatment — all provisions that insurance companies are required to provide under the Affordable Care Act.
In March, U.S. District Judge John Bates struck down the rule saying it was “clearly an end-run around” the Affordable Care Act. The Trump administration has appealed the ruling,
Along with 15 Republican officials from other states, Bevin signed a court briefurging a federal appeals court to uphold the policy.
“The expansion of which employers may use the leverage of [Association Health Plans] will thus lead to an increase in the number of employees provided health coverage by private monies. This will benefit States…who might otherwise be left to cover uninsured individuals,” the officials wrote in the brief.
The policy was struck down following a lawsuit from 11 Democratic attorneys general, including Bevin’s rival in Kentucky’s race for governor this year, Andy Beshear.
Beshear responded to Bevin’s brief in a statement.
“I disagree with the governor’s new action because it threatens health care coverage for Kentuckians, including people with preexisting health conditions,” Beshear said. “While Matt Bevin continues his work to strip vital coverage away from our families, I am fighting to make sure all Kentuckians get the health care they need and can afford it.”
Beshear is also battling Bevin’s attempt to reshape Kentucky’s Medicaid system by requiring people to prove they are working, volunteering or in school in order to receive benefits. That policy has also been paused pending a lawsuit.
Association health plans can be formed by groups of people, small businesses or trade groups. Supporters say the plans give groups more power to negotiate insurance prices, but opponents argue it allows employers to provide weaker insurance plans that don’t comply with federal health care protections.
Scott Brinkman, secretary of Bevin’s Executive Cabinet, said in a statement that the ruling blocks businesses from taking advantage of “market flexibility and reduced costs.”
“Health care costs are unsustainable for small businesses as a result of Obama-era health care policies and the passage of the Affordable Care Act,” Brinkman said.
“This is a commonsense, free-market solution to the spiraling costs of our health care system, and it’s unfathomable that Attorney General Beshear would openly advocate against a policy that would benefit Kentucky’s small businesses and thousands of citizens across the Commonwealth.”
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has been a vocal supporter of the association health plan policy, saying it would improve the insurance market in the absence of repealing the Affordable Care Act.
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