WASHINGTON, DC — Dirk Van Dongen, president for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), recently sent a letter to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao dismissing a recently released report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) regarding association health plans (AHPs). The report, entitled “Association Health Plans: Preemption of State Oversight Would Place Consumers and Small Employers At Risk,” is described by Van Dongen as a “self-serving restatement of criticisms long since addressed by AHP advocates.”

Citing a recent General Accounting Office study that demonstrates the overwhelming market penetration of BCBSA plans, which in some states reaches 75%, Van Dongen suggested BCBSA is “driven by its clear dominance of the small business health insurance market to oppose reform.” Van Dongen also pointed to a recently concluded study of employers affiliated with NAW as evidence of the “dire need of the free market competition AHPs can provide.”

NAW’s vice president of government relations, Jim Anderson, said that the NAW study reveals that during the past year, the average increase in health insurance premiums for wholesaler-distributors with fewer than 500 employees was 20%.

“Ninety-five percent of the companies participating in the NAW study said that if the current premium trend continues, they plan to implement cost-cutting options that will increase employees’ out-of-pocket medical costs,” Van Dongen noted.

Van Dongen said the BCBSA study was attempting to “smear AHPs by equating them to unscrupulous, discredited MEWAs [multi-employer welfare arrangements], despite the clear difference between them.”

Publication date: 06/03/2002