A number of small businesses are cancelling health insurance plans, nudging their employees onto state-subsidized plans, The Boston Globe reports. While state officials don’t know how widespread the practice is, if the trend continues, it does not bode well for the already cash-strapped state budget.
Kay Lazar reports:
The Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy annually surveys employers and found no significant drop in coverage as of the end of 2009, when more than three-quarters of companies offered health insurance.
But insurance brokers say the pace of terminations has picked up considerably since then among small companies, of which there are thousands in Massachusetts. Many of these companies — restaurants, day-care centers, hair salons, and retail shops — typically pay such low wages that their workers qualify for state-subsidized health insurance when their employers drop their plans.
“Those employers are trying to keep their doors open, and to the extent they can cut expenses, they will cut health insurance because they know their people can go to Commonwealth Care,’’ said Mark Gaunya, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Underwriters, a trade group representing more than 1,000 brokers and other insurance professionals.
The issue is coming to a head as the Patrick administration battles insurers over swiftly escalating rates they have been charging small employers. In February, the governor filed sweeping legislation that proposes to give the Division of Insurance the power to essentially cap health care price increases. That proposal is still pending