Gingold, Devlin and Baker Score Victory for Business Health Plans
If not for the efforts of Lane Powell attorneys Jeff Gingold, a healthcare and insurance regulatory attorney, commercial litigator John Devlin, and attorney Katherine Baker, affordable business association health plans like the Association of Washington Business (“AWB”) “HealthChoice” program would have been headed to life support in the State of Washington.
The Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner (“OIC”) issued a Technical Assistance Advisory in December of 2006 that would have significantly changed the way association health plans can be rated, seriously jeopardizing their future affordability. After OIC’s refusal to reconsider its position, AWB joined forces with Associated Industries of the Inland Northwest (“AI”) and engaged Lane Powell to file suit in Spokane County.
On August 27, 2007, Spokane County Superior Court Judge Kathleen O’Connor ruled in favor of AWB and AI, granting Lane Powell’s motion for summary judgment and invalidating the TAA. In a story entitled, “Victory for small business health insurance plans,” The Spokane Spokesman-Review summarized the decision as follows: “The court held that “[w]hile OIC can issue technical advisories, they are not rules and are not enforceable. TA 06-07 amounts to a major policy shift from the plaintiff’s perspective. Policy is made by the legislature.”
AWB explained the importance of what was at stake: “Today, by our estimates, over a half million people in Washington are covered by association health plans and in the case of AWB, it is over 17,000 people. There are 2,300 AWB members in HealthChoice and the average number of people employed by an AWB HealthChoice subscriber is 4. So we are fulfilling the promise we made to then Gov. Mike Lowry and the legislature in 1995 that if authorized, we would provide affordable heath insurance for small businesses.”
On August 29, 2007, OIC published a notice “that as a result of a court ruling issued by the Spokane Superior Court on August 27, 2007, the OIC is permanently withdrawing T06-07, Nondiscrimination Requirements for Health Benefit Plans.”
Reaction from the business community to court decision was swift and positive.