The Trump administration once again set its sights on ObamaCare this week, but it was also a week spent absorbing health-care punches, not just throwing them. Blow one: A federal judge on Wednesday blocked Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas and Kentucky. Blow two: Another federal judge on Thursday struck down a Trump administration rule that allows small businesses to band together to offer lower-cost coverage that skirts some ObamaCare benefits requirements. The AP reports the ruling by US District Judge John Bates in Washington, DC, painted the so-called "association health plans" as an "end-run" around consumer protections set by the Affordable Care Act. The Washington Post reports that Bates found the new rule introduced in June by the administration violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
ERISA has been in place since 1974 and provides the framework for the kind of coverage offered by employer-sponsored health-care plans. The New York Times reports Bates found the new rule far too loosely defined "employer" to include "virtually any association of disparate employers connected by geographic proximity," along with business owners who have no employees. As a law expert translated for the Post, there needs to be a "commonality of interest" beyond just being in the same state. And Bates found the rule led to "absurd results," such as in the hypothetical case of 51 business owners who had no employees and banded together: Their group would be viewed as having 52 employers (them plus the association) and 51 employees.
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