The Department of Labor this week finally issued its rule authorizing the creation of association health plans (AHP) that can help small businesses and the self-employed to get more affordable health coverage. Under the new rule, which will become effective on September 1 2018, the definition of an employer under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is broadened so as to allow more groups to form AHPs as an alternative to Affordable Care Act health exchanges. AHPs can be formed where there is a “commonality of interest” among individuals, which may be geographic commonality or profession commonality. In either case, it is believed that AHPs can offer less expensive options since they are not required to offer all the essential health benefits (EHB) mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The flexibility associated with AHPs is expected to allow for the creation of health care plans within associations or industries that more closely align with their members’ preferences and also reduce regulatory overhead. The final rule, which results from an Executive Order signed by President Trump last October, allows AHPs to operate separately from ACA health exchanges as independent markets, and to be sold in a single state, nationally, or in groups of states. Individual states retain the discretion to regulate AHPs if they so choose.