Mass. Employers May Sue Feds Over Obamacare Small-Business Premiums

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports:

The state’s largest employer group says it may sue the federal government over a provision in Obamacare that will hike premiums for some small businesses.

The federal health care law changes the way individual and small business insurance rates are calculated.

The Obama administration agreed to let Massachusetts phase in the new system, but said in a letter today that the state must eventually comply.

Under the changes, some employers will see their rates drop, but others may see dramatic increases.

The employer group, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, posts its reaction to the letter on its blog here, including this:

Associated Industries of Massachusetts is gravely disappointed with the decision and will now consider other remedies to help employers, including legal action or supporting legislation to de-merge the insurance market for individuals and small companies.

And here’s a chunk of the denial letter from Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to Gov. Deval Patrick: Continue reading

Employers’ Group Launches Biggest Campaign In 20 Years: To Contain Health Costs

The biggest employers’ group in the state has just launched its biggest issue campaign in two decades: a push to stem the ever-spiraling growth in the cost of health care. From the Associated Industries of Massachusetts press release:

The Employers’ Campaign for Affordable Health will ensure that lawmakers, employers, doctors, hospitals and insurers seize what may be their best opportunity to restructure the financial underpinnings of the Commonwealth’s health care system. The initiative will include lobbying, grass-roots organizing and public information, along with educational programs designed to prepare employers for the difficult decisions they will have to make as part of the process of controlling their health premiums.

The campaign marks the largest single project undertaken by AIM and its thousands of member employers since the organization led the reform of workers compensation system in 1991. The close parallels between the workers compensation reform and the current health insurance crisis offer hope that the same business/government coalition that worked together to lower workers comp rates by 60 percent at the start of the Weld administration can do the same with health care at the dawn of the second Patrick administration.

“We believe that change is in the air for positive action to address the cost of health care now. Employers simply cannot wait any longer for relief.” Said Richard Lord, AIM’s president & CEO.

Continue reading

Health Costs Are ‘1st, 2nd And 3rd’ Legislative Priority, Mass. Business Group Says

AIM's John Regan

Colleen Quinn of the State House News Service reports from AIM’s State House visit yesterday:

BOSTON – Containing health care costs will make Massachusetts employers more likely to hire more people and help the state grow its tax base, representatives from the state’s largest business group said Wednesday. Associated Industries of Massachusetts officials said high all-around business costs in Massachusetts, and competition from other states, make health care cost control the group’s first, second and third legislative priority for the new two-year session.

The news service quoted AIM executive vice president John Regan:
“I jokingly say to people, and only half jokingly, that in terms of the agenda for 2011-2012, it is pretty easy to state,” Regan said. “Health care cost containment is number one, followed by health care cost containment, and then health care cost containment. Then there are probably a couple of other things we will work on as well.”

AIM is backing 21 bills for this legislative session, State House News reports, among them:

Sen. Michael Moore (D-Millbury) is sponsoring a bill backed by AIM that imposes a moratorium on new insurance mandates and adjusts the amount of deductibles and co-payments allowed under minimum creditable coverage to keep pace with inflation.
The bill also would eliminate the medical security trust fund and the assessment that employers must pay every year to fund this program to provide health insurance to the unemployed or uninsured, according to AIM. The bill calls for the state to use its existing programs to insure those covered under the fund.
Another bill, sponsored by House Minority Leader Brad Jones, would give municipalities more flexibility in offering health insurance to employees. Legislators are under pressure to curb municipal health care costs, with public employee unions resisting changes that could erode collective bargaining rights.
A third bill, sponsored by Rep. Harriet Stanley (D-West Newbury) would require Medicaid patients to enroll in managed care programs to coordinate their care – a proposal the Legislature has repeatedly rejected – and also would ask Medicaid officials to conduct a pilot program on payment reform.