Days before Republican leaders were forced to pull the American Health Care Act from a floor vote, the House of Representatives passed a bill intended to give small employers greater purchasing power in the group health insurance market.

The Small Business Health Fairness Act (SBHF), which would allow small businesses to band together to offer association group health plans, was largely passed along party lines — only four Democrats defected to join Republicans in their uniform support of the bill.

Association health plans have been among the GOP's pet policy initiatives for nearly three decades. Legislation could give smaller companies as much negotiation power with insurers as large employers and labor unions. In 2005, a similar bill passed the House, but ultimately stalled in the Senate. Since then, the House has seen several iterations of bills that would allow for association plans, all of which failed to reach a full chamber vote.

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Nick Thornton

Nick Thornton is a financial writer covering retirement and health care issues for BenefitsPRO and ALM Media. He greatly enjoys learning from the vast minds in the legal, academic, advisory and money management communities when covering the retirement space. He's also written on international marketing trends, financial institution risk management, defense and energy issues, the restaurant industry in New York City, surfing, cigars, rum, travel, and fishing. When not writing, he's pushing into some land or water.