WASHINGTON, DC — Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW), has 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,Association Health Plans: Preemption of State Oversight Would Place Consumers and Small Employers At Risk, is described by Dongen as a “self-serving restatement of criticisms long-since addressed by AHP advocates.”

Citing a recent General Accounting Office (GAO) 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, says 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%.

Van Dongen suggested that workers and their families were likely to become the ultimate victims of an uncompetitive health insurance market that continues to drive up premium costs.

“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 wrote.

Publication date: 05/27/2002