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New Health Options for Small Firms     10/23 06:25

   The Trump administration is rolling out new options for small employers to 
use tax-free accounts for providing health coverage to workers, officials said 
Monday.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration is rolling out new options for 
small employers to use tax-free accounts for providing health coverage to 
workers, officials said Monday.

   The idea is to expand so-called "health reimbursement arrangements" to allow 
employees to buy their own individual health insurance policies.

   Employers could also pair the accounts with workplace health plans, allowing 
workers to use the money for additional benefits such as dental care.

   Officials from the departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human 
Services provided a broad overview of the proposed regulations Monday evening 
ahead of an official announcement, expected Tuesday.

   Critics say the approach will undermine traditional job-based coverage. 

   HRAs join other Trump administration health insurance initiatives, including 
association health plans and short-term policies.

   The latest changes appear to be complex and it could take time for employers 
to them sort out.

   Officials said the proposal is aimed at two types of companies: small firms 
that are not required to offer health insurance and medium-sized firms that 
usually only offer their workers a single plan.

   The biggest change involves expanding the use of tax-free HRAs to allow more 
workers to buy their own health insurance, a practice the Obama administration 
had discouraged. The money employers put in the accounts is tax-free to workers 
and tax-deductible for the company. Officials say the move will bring more 
consumers into the individual health insurance market and promote competition.

   But critics say HRAs could allow employers to devise strategies for shifting 
workers with high health care costs off their corporate plans and into the 
market for individual policies. The administration says its plan includes 
protections for workers.

   Administration officials said they hope the plan will lead to more people 
getting health insurance, particularly in small companies that tend not to 
offer coverage. 


(KA)

 
 
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