Mass. Health Insurance Rates Still Rising, But Not So Steeply

WBUR's Martha Bebinger

WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports:

Health insurance rates for individuals and small businesses are still going up…but at the lowest rate in recent memory.

The base rates set to take effect in January will increase, on average, 4.8% — well below the 18% averages early last year. Since then, the Patrick administration has limited insurance rate hikes, patients are using less care, and some hospitals are agreeing to lower increases. Barbara Anthony, who runs the state Office of Consumer Affairs, says these rates are progress — but not enough.

“We do want to go to zero,” she said. “In a perfect world we’d even see a decline in costs. That’s going to take providers stepping up to the plate in a meaningful way.”

One note of caution, these are the base rate increases. Insurers will adjust them up based on the experience of each individual and small business.

Health Care For All’s Executive Director, Amy Whitcomb Slemmer says the increases are disappointing.

“While the rates of our health insurance have gone up nearly 5%, neither our overall health nor the quality of care we receive has kept pace. In fact, consumers are experiencing higher costs for fewer health benefits. Health Care For All urges state lawmakers to act swiftly to pass comprehensive health delivery system reform so that our health care dollars are tied to better outcomes and our coverage is truly affordable.”

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