The latest small business health insurance rates may be the calm before the storm.
Premiums for small firms are set to increase from a base of 2.5%, on average, in July. That’s slightly less than the average increase of 2.7% this quarter. Employers willing to live with limits on where they and employees receive care could see premiums drop (take a look below at Neighborhood Health Plan and Celitcare). And notice that no one filed (or was approved for) rate increases above 3.6%, the current magic number for health care cost caps in Massachusetts.
But things may look quite different as of January 1st. Very small businesses could see modest increases or perhaps lower rates. But insurers are warning that firms with 20-50 workers could see premiums jump 30% when parts of the federal health care law kick in next year.
“We all thought that Mass. was going to be held harmless under the ACA, but that looks like that’s not going to be the case, at least not for small businesses,” says Jon Hurst, President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. “We’re going to be looking at a lot of small businesses getting extreme, double digit increases come next year.”
Undersecretary for Consumer Affairs Barbara Anthony has some advice for small employers. “You may get an increase if you do nothing,” says Anthony, “but if you’re willing to shop around, and look for better deals, this is going to be a dynamic market. And the people who are willing to shop around, to vote with their feet, are going to make out fine.”
The best deals will likely be plans with high deductibles or those that limit where you can get care.