With all the positive news about the business climate in NC, I constantly hear from the business community that they face two major challenges. These are that the high cost of healthcare prevents them from obtaining crucial, affordable coverage for themselves and their employees, and they have difficulty finding the workforce that they need. This bill, of which I am a primary sponsor, will serve to help address each of these issues. It is the one on which I have been most heavily involved, thus far.
This bill will allow small businesses to enjoy the same regulatory and financial advantages as large corporations when it comes to purchasing health insurance for their employees. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the modifications made in this bill to North Carolina’s insurance code could potentially benefit up to 110,000 of our citizens.
While small businesses with fewer than 51 employees are not required to offer health insurance benefits, studies show that half of them don’t offer coverage because of the cost. Historically, this is because small businesses don’t enjoy the same regulatory advantages as large corporations when it comes to offering health benefits to their employees.
Before 2010, Associated Health Plans (AHPs) were an option that small businesses around the county used to offer insurance to their employees, but an Obama Administration guidance changed this. In 2010, a slew of more expensive restrictions burdened the small group insurance market.
Made possible now due to U.S. DOL rulings that govern Association Health Plans, or AHPs, this bill will allow a group of small businesses to band together and form a large group which can then receive the same benefits that large corporations receive when it comes to health benefits. This bill will not preclude pre-existing conditions, and it will be fully regulated by the NC insurance code to ensure solvent plans and hearty beneficial coverage. I have already received several calls from businesses asking how they can get started designing their own AHP.
I presented the bill to the Senate Commerce/Insurance and Health Care Committees and received unanimous support. It has now passed the Senate on a vote of 40-8, and it will be moving on to the House. I have already begun talking to House members about this bill and will be working it through their various committees.