Dawn Sweeney Cheers Association Health Plan Expansion

Expanding AHPs will allow smaller and mid-sized businesses to offer employees benefits on par with larger companies, says Dawn Sweeney.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s recent decision to allow the expansion of Association Health Plans (AHPs) will enable smaller and mid-sized businesses to offer employees health care benefits on par with larger companies.

To help our industry select the right plans for their businesses, the National Restaurant Association recently debuted our Restaurant & Hospitality Association Benefit Trust, created in partnership with UnitedHealthcare. It offers more than 120 insurance plans with medical and specialty benefits in addition to wellness options.

In an Op-Ed in the New York Post, Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association president and CEO, explained how the new regulations and creation of our RHA Benefit Trust would benefit businesses and their employees:

  • With health care premiums rising, AHPs can give small businesses negotiating power and flexibility leading to reduced costs. This will empower them to advocate for better, more affordable, health care.
  • By banding together in AHPs, small business owners will now be able to purchase high-quality insurance at a more affordable price. That will not only benefit their bottom lines, but also their local economies. Perhaps, most important of all, this will help millions of Americans and their families enjoy happier and healthier lives.
  • For the first time ever, smaller, local restaurants and retailers in rural areas will now be able to participate in a single small business health plan that enables them to offer insurance to their employees. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2017 the average single-employee premium was $6,690, an increase of 133 percent since 2002. Because of that high cost, the number of small businesses offering insurance decreased from 63 percent in 2006 to 56 percent in 2016.
  • Through AHPs, local coffee shop owners or restaurateurs can join forces to create their own health plans. With the RHA Benefit Trust, restaurant operators will enjoy lower administrative costs through economies of scale, and strengthen their bargaining positions while enhancing the ability to self-insure.

Sweeney emphasized that empowering small businesses to offer affordable coverage would reduce turnover and retain valued employees.

“Any small operator will tell you their greatest asset is their work force, and that one of the biggest costs is recruiting, training and retaining top talent,” she said. “As owners face an increasingly competitive hiring market, offering health care coverage is increasingly important.”