One of the big draws to being a real estate agent is being your own boss. You get to call your own shots, you get to set your own schedule, you get to set your own priorities…all as an independent contractor

And, on the other, one of the biggest drawbacks to being a real estate agent and an independent contractor is the lack of or exorbitant expense of health care benefits.

Currently, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is endorsing the concept of Association Health Plans as a way to remedy this health care benefit problem for realtors. Association Heal Plans allow small businesses employers or trade associations, like NAR, to pool their resources in order to provide health care coverage at lower premium costs for their members.

The US Department of Labor is considering a proposed rule that would modify the legal definition of “employer” to include “working owners,” i.e. self-employed individuals without employees. If the DOL gives the okay on this modified definition, thousands of real estate agents who work as independent contractors, or self-employed individuals without employees, could, according to NAR, “finally be able to have health coverage (under NAR’s umbrella) through a fully-insure “large group” or self insured Association Health Plan.

NAR tells us that 9 out of 10 agents work as independent contractors. Most of these agents are forced to purchase health insurance through the individual market place that provides agents with fewer choices at higher prices. 46% of NAR’s 1.3M members currently pay for their health coverage out-of-pocket. 32% of NAR’s members indicate they get their health coverage through their spouse/partner/family member. Only 3% of NAR’s members have health care coverage provided by their employer or their employer’s health plan.

Assuming for a moment that the DOL endorses this modified definition of “employer” to include working owners without employees or independent contractors, it will not be smooth sailing for such a policy change to go into effect. Experts predict legal challenges from state officials and insurance providers as any Association Health Plans would be exempt from national Affordable Care Act Regulations. Such exemptions could result in the likelihood of ACA premiums soaring because Association Health Plans would draw from a younger workforce.

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