Retailers join Trump at White House for signing of association health plan order

"Small businesses will finally be able to take advantage of better rates their employees can afford."

Dave's Soda and Pet City Owner Dave Ratner

WASHINGTON – The owner of a Massachusetts pet-supply store represented the National Retail Federation at the White House today as President Trump signed an executive order that would allow more small businesses to buy health insurance for their workers through federally sanctioned association health plans.

“The signing of this order will help level the health insurance playing field for small businesses across the country,” said Dave Ratner, an NRF member and owner of Dave’s Soda and Pet City, a small chain of beverage and pet-supply stores based in Agawam, Mass. “Large companies with thousands of employees have their own plans but a small business like mine can’t possibly negotiate rates close to what they can get. By letting associations negotiate for their members, small businesses will finally be able to take advantage of better rates their employees can afford and provide better coverage in the process.”

Ratner was on hand this morning as Trump signed an executive order directing the Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services departments to rewrite federal regulations to allow AHPs to be more widely used and to take other steps to help provide more affordable health coverage access for businesses and individuals.

“NRF is a longstanding supporter of association health plans,” NRF Vice President for Health Care Policy Neil Trautwein said. “We welcome the administration’s move because associations can bring necessary competition to underserved insurance markets. We look forward to working with state retail associations to determine how best to move forward on AHPs.”

AHPs allow small employers to band together through trade or professional organizations in order to purchase coverage at rates normally available only to large companies. They are allowed at the state level in some states, but cannot currently operate across state lines. That restriction would be lifted under the Trump order.

NRF has backed AHP legislation in the House, saying it would help small businesses compete with large companies in providing employee health insurance at affordable rates. The Small Business Health Fairness Act, sponsored by Representative Sam Johnson, R-Texas, passed the House in March 2017, but has yet to see action in the Senate. Comparable bills have been introduced by Senators Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Rand Paul, R-Ky.   

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.