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March 26, 2024

Association health plan legislation might not be dead, yet

HBJ Photo | Skyler Frazer Flanked by fellow legislators and business leaders, state Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield) speaks outside the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford to push the General Assembly to approve association health plan legislation this session.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle on Tuesday expressed optimism that a proposal to allow small companies to group together to get more affordable health insurance can still pass into law this session despite not being moved out of committee before deadline.

State Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield), ranking member of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, and state Rep. Jill Barry (D-Glastonbury), vice chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, joined colleagues outside the Bushnell Performing Arts Center ahead of Connecticut Business Day to support what they called a “pro business” proposal: allowing small businesses to pool their resources when shopping for insurance.

The legislation, House bill 5247, would allow qualifying chambers of commerce and trade associations to act as one large employer and offer their members self-funded health insurance benefits that would be strictly regulated. A similar bill failed last year.

Last week, the Insurance and Real Estate Committee deadline to send bills to the House or Senate floors passed without the group moving forward any legislation. That means the association health plans bill was technically dead for the session.

However, Hwang pushed General Assembly leadership to find a way for the legislation to pass and be enacted this year. That could mean attaching the proposal to a bill that made it out of another committee. Barry said the proposal was a priority for the insurance committee last session and “continues to be a priority this year.”

“We as legislators and businesses on a bipartisan basis, have seen and asked for the leadership in both the House and the Senate to consider this concept, to use it and apply it into other legislation that could be passed because it is a critical need,” Hwang said.

Their pleas came during Connecticut Business Day, an annual event hosted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Association health plan legislation is one of the CBIA’s top policy objectives this session. Advocates for the proposal say association health plans would help small businesses struggling with rising costs.

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