- - Tuesday, July 2, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Many in Washington talk a big game about protecting workers and small businesses, but the Trump administration is getting results: A new rule from the White House will give millions of working Americans access to affordable health insurance.

During a ceremony in the Rose Garden, President Trump announced a rule allowing employer-sponsored health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) for the first time to pay for individual health insurance premiums tax-free. Employees can already use HRAs to fund out-of-pocket medical costs, but this reform takes it one step further.

Now, employees can use HRAs to pay premiums for the private insurance plan of their choosing. The reform puts employees in the driver’s seat to select insurance plans that best meet the coverage needs of themselves and their families.

Increasing numbers of small-business employees are on their own when it comes to paying insurance premiums. Premiums have risen and deductibles have spiked. Since 2003, employer-sponsored health insurance offer rates have dropped nearly 30 percent at companies with fewer than 100 employees.

These companies want to provide insurance for their employees — they just can’t afford it. The rising costs of health care make it impossible. Mr. Trump’s new rule will encourage 800,000 employers to sponsor HRAs for employees, which could help more than 10 million workers purchase individual health insurance coverage.



And the reform will help small businesses stay competitive in their industry or region. A business can now offer employees an HRA as a benefit to attract and retain top talent, while affordability allows the employer to also hire more employees and expand the business. They could also offer a coverage option for part-time workers who currently go uninsured.

Thanks to Mr. Trump, small businesses may no longer have to choose between keeping the lights on and providing quality health coverage for valued employees. They can do both.

It’s clear that the White House is leading the charge on health care reform to provide Americans with affordable insurance options for themselves and their families. In the past year alone, the administration worked to increase access to affordable insurance through association health plans (AHPs), which allow small employers to band together to purchase health insurance for their employees.

The White House also expanded access to those who are currently uninsured with short-term plans, which are projected to help at least 2 million uninsured Americans gain temporary health insurance and cost 50 percent to 80 percent less than plans available on the individual market.

Next, media reports confirm that the administration is pushing for increased price transparency in health care with an executive order that would require companies in the health care industry to disclose pricing data to patients — a much-needed reform as prices continue to skyrocket.

The Trump administration is finally doing what politicians in Washington have repeatedly failed to do: Bring relief to the millions of Americans who have been priced out of the health insurance market. The HRA rule will get hard-working Americans and their families insured in a way that is a win-win for both employers and employees.

The rule may also have the positive spillover effect of ending dependency for some Medicaid enrollees as they move off the program and onto private coverage, saving states and federal taxpayers millions in the process.

Republicans and Democrats should applaud the innovative health care solutions coming out of the White House. This is what true health care empowerment — and leadership — looks like.

• Kristina Rasmussen serves as vice president for federal affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

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