President Trump Signs Executive Order Expanding MEWAs
President Donald Trump signed an executive order today meant to allow individuals and small business to purchase “association health plans,” also known as multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) an unpopular and often challenged type of insurance that would bypass ACA and state insurance regulations. This order comes after several high profile failures to “repeal and replace” the ACA and continues the goal of these initiatives: Allow Americans to purchase meager coverage at lower prices and ultimately undermine the insurance marketplaces.
A MEWA is a single plan that covers the employees of two or more unrelated companies. This allows small employers to pool their money together and receive access to low-cost insurance typically only available to large employer groups.
Critics of the plan, including state insurance commissioners, policy experts, and insurance industry professionals predict this executive order could have lasting impacts on the current healthcare landscape. They predict this could lead to a two-fold problem where costs for patients with serious medical conditions increase while simultaneously, younger and healthier individuals will leave the marketplace.
The executive order is also expected to increase the availability of short-term insurance policies that offer limited benefits to serve as a gap for individuals switching their insurance. Currently, short-term insurance can only last three months, but the Trump administration is expected to extend this to nearly a year.
“It will be great, great health care for many, many people,” said the President.
However, in 1992 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that over 398,000 Americans and their beneficiaries were denied claims under MEWAs, often in violation of state insurance laws and even criminal statutes. The GAO estimates that more than $123 million of claims were not paid between 1988 and 1991. Furthermore, some MEWAs can also engage in fraud. In one outrageous example, a California-based MEWA, Rubell Helm Insurance Services, enrolled thousands of Florida residents without their knowledge and failed to pay any large claims.
“MEWAs have proven to be a source of regulatory confusion, enforcement problems and, in some instances, fraud,” the GAO says in this report.