The only state with comprehensive health reform—Massachusetts—is seeking new ways to tamp down rising healthcare costs.
What about Massachusetts?
New bill from Patrick seeks to control health costs
In this vein, Gov. Deval Patrick last week introduced legislation that would give the state insurance commissioner more power over healthcare rate increases, especially those affecting small businesses.
The bill would automatically trigger a disapproval of an insurance rate hike if it is significantly above the level of medical cost inflation, currently at 3.2%. The bill would do the same for provider rates. “This is aggressive, but we have to give small businesses some economic breathing room until we can implement the kind of payment reform that will curtail costs,” Patrick told the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 10 when unveiling the bill.
If passed by state lawmakers, the bill would require insurers in the small group market to offer at least one plan with premiums at least 10% lower than the premiums for the full network plan, starting in July. Insurers would also have to set up biannual open-enrollment periods to encourage people to get and keep health insurance.
The insurance commissioner would have broad authority under this bill to reject rate increases on small businesses—especially as their workforce ages.
Patrick said he would direct the insurance commissioner, under existing authority, to issue an emergency rule requiring health insurers to file proposed changes in small-business premiums in advance, so they can be reviewed.
Since Massachusetts began requiring all residents to carry health insurance in 2006, the state has been struggling to hold down costs. Prices paid by health insurers to hospitals and physician groups vary wildly across the state, and are based more on the providers’ market position than on quality of care, concluded a report issued last month by state Attorney General Martha Coakley.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.