February 20, 2019
NAR Defends AHPs
Since the new Congress began, a number of Congressional Committees have held health care related hearings focused on issues ranging from pre-existing conditions to short-term health plans. In some of these hearings, the matter of Association Health Plans (AHPs) has come up, which NAR through its work with the Coalition to Protect and Promote AHPs has provided background in defense of AHPs.
AHPs are typically large group plans subject to most of the consumer protections of other group plans under the Affordable Care Act. Thus, by law, AHPs cannot exclude participants based on health status including any pre-existing conditions. In fact, AHPs generally offer more comprehensive health coverage at lower cost than the small group and individual health insurance markets. AHPs are also not the same as short-term health plans, despite constantly being grouped together. Short-term health plans are subject to less regulation than AHPs and thus are often characterized as “skinny” plans with less health benefits, which differ from more comprehensive AHPs. The coalition statements sort out these “myths vs. facts” about AHPs.
NAR continues to advocate for changes to promote and protect AHPs and will continue to provide updates to members seeking more affordable health insurance options.
NAR Leadership Meets with HUD Secretary Ben Carson
Recently NAR President John Smaby and several other members of NAR’s Leadership met with U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Acting Assistant Secretary and Fair Housing Administration (FHA) Commissioner Brian Montgomery to bring attention to several matters of importance to REALTORS®. President Smaby urged Secretary Carson and Commissioner Montgomery to release the long-awaited FHA condominium rule. REALTORS® support increased flexibility with owner-occupancy and commercial space requirements, as well as more streamlined project re-certification and the allowance of spot loan approval for non-FHA designated condominium projects. The Secretary was understanding of NAR’s stance and recognizes the importance of condominiums as the most viable form of home-ownership for many worthy borrowers.
NAR’s Leadership also discussed the need for HUD guidance on assistance animals for rental property owners, which the Secretary recognized would be helpful. Secretary Carson noted that HUD intends to publish a rule on down-payment assistance which he welcomes NAR’s comment. NAR is an advocate of down-payment assistance programs that are properly managed.
Interior Department Advances Forest Management Plans
The Interior Department has set out a plan for increased forest cuts and other “active management” approaches in federal forests to reduce wildfire risks.
In a secretarial order No. 3372, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke set out a series of deadlines to identify and remove environmental hurdles for forest management projects, identify salvage logging projects and begin other measures to mitigate wildfire risks on public lands.
The details methods of forest management, including mowing, thinning, timber salvage and application of pesticides. The Interior document suggests stepped-up logging in national parks, and it specifically mentions salvage logging in areas affected by wildfires, insect infestation and disease in 2017 and 2018.