On January 5, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued Proposed Rules that broaden the criteria under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) for determining when and how employers may form an association for the purpose of offering a group health plan.

The intent of the Proposed Rules is to expand access to group health coverage by permitting businesses, sole proprietors and self-employed individuals to form association health plans (AHPs) based on common geography, industry or trade. Under the Proposed Rules, an association that meets certain requirements would be treated as the "employer" sponsor of a multiple-employer "group health plan" under ERISA. In short, the Proposed Rules broaden the conditions under which an association can act as an "employer" for the purpose of offering a group health plan.