Two years ago, Massachusetts set what was considered an ambitious goal: The state would not let that persistent monster, rising health care costs, increase faster than the economy as a whole. Today, the results of the first full year are out and there’s reason to celebrate.
The number that will go down in the history books is 2.3 percent. It’s well below a state-imposed benchmark for health care cost growth of 3.6 percent, and well below the increases seen for at least a decade.
“So all of that’s really good news,” says Aron Boros, executive director at the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), which is releasing the first calculation of state health care expenditures. “It really seems like … the growth in health care spending is slowing.”
Why? It could be the pressure of the new law.
“We have to believe that’s the year,” Boros says, “that insurers and providers are trying their hardest to keep cost increases down.”
But then, health care spending was down across the U.S., not just in Massachusetts, last year.
“There’s not strong evidence that it’s different in Massachusetts; we really seem to be in line with those national trends,” Boros adds. “People are either going to doctors and hospitals a little less frequently or they’re going to lower-cost settings a little more frequently.”
The result: Health insurance premiums were flat overall in 2013.
2013 average premiums:
Individual: $461 PMPM (1.8% increase 2012-2013)
Small group (1-50 enrollees): $421 PMPM (0.4% increase)
Mid-size group (51-100 enrollees): $444 PMPM (0.5% increase)
Large group (101-499 enrollees): $433 PMPM (-0.2% decrease)
Jumbo group (500+ enrollees): $423 PMPM (-0.8% decrease)
“2013 was a year in which we were able to exhale,” says Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. But he’s worried the break on rates was short-lived. This year, Hurst’s members are reporting premium increases that average 12 percent.
“If we’re going back to these double-digit increases that so many small businesses suffered through for most of the last decade, we have very large concerns,” Hurst says. “What’s going to happen to the small business marketplace in Massachusetts?” Continue reading