By Josh Archambault
Hundreds of healthcare journalists will be attending the Association of Health Care Journalists’ (AHCJ) conference in Boston this week to hear from many speakers with rose-colored ideas about both our Romneycare law and a brand new state cost-control law. Yet all is not well in the Commonwealth. State officials now predict “extreme premium increases” for many small businesses under Obamacare.
In a letter to federal regulators the day after Christmas 2012, a perfect day to bury news, Massachusetts officials floated the idea of obtaining a waiver from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) out of fear of the premium spikes. Yet, recently finalized federal regulations slammed the door on that flexibility. Many small companies justifiably feel sick over the decision.
Josh Archambault of the Pioneer Institute (Courtesy of JA)
The small business community has been paying more for health insurance since the commonwealth’s 2006 reform merged sicker individuals into the same risk pool. The legislature has also added to costs by passing 12 additional mandated benefits since then, a cost borne completely by small companies and individuals.
Now the future looks even bleaker for small business. Not only will their highest-in-the-nation premiums go up because of these new regulations, but they will be paying on average $8,000 per family, per plan more in taxes over the next ten years. That translates into employers and consumers in Massachusetts paying $213 million in 2014 and $3 billion more over the next decade.
Conference speakers will be sure to mention that the Connector was created to help small companies obtain competitively priced insurance, and other states will experience this benefit in the exchanges required under the federal law. Only one problem, the rhetoric doesn’t match reality in Massachusetts. Continue reading
Looking for new sources of revenue and positioning itself for national health reform, Boston Medical Center is jumping into the commercial health insurance market with a new plan that looks to be one of the most affordable offered by The Connector.
I asked BMC for a few more details and here, slightly edited, is a response from Scott O’Gorman, Executive Director of BMC HealthNet Plan:
“BMC HealthNet Plan is entering the commercial market place for a few reasons…
We’ve been very successful with our traditional focus on government-subsidized coverage. BMC HealthNet Plan serves nearly 240,000 MassHealth and Commonwealth Care members across Massachusetts. We do, however, want to develop new sources of revenue and we believe we can offer high quality, affordable coverage to employers and individuals in the commercial market. We’ve been recognized for our quality as the #3 Medicaid health plan in the country in the 2011-12 rankings by the National Committee for Quality Assurance.
We also want to prepare BMC HealthNet Plan for success with the market place changes coming with full implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act in 2014. Continue reading
The Connector makes the legal case for cutting health benefits for legal immigrants
Lawyers for the state’s Health Insurance Connector Authority are arguing in legal motions
that cutting thousands of legal immigrants
off of certain subsidized health plans is in alignment with federal immigration policy, The Boston Globe
Cutting health care to thousands of legal immigrants in Massachusetts serves a compelling government interest and furthers national immigration policy, according to court motions filed today by lawyers representing the state’s Connector Authority, which oversees the state’s landmark health insurance law.
In the motion, the agency asked that the full Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court consider the challenge by legal immigrants to a 2009 state law that excluded them from receiving full benefits through the state’s subsidized health insurance program and barred many others from receiving any coverage.
The full court ruled in early May that the exclusions likely violate the state’s constitution, and sent the case back to Associate Justice Robert J. Cordy for a final decision.
The Connector argues that “adopting the federal policy would better align Massachusetts’ subsidized health insurance program with national policy,” The Globe reports.
But Matt Selig, executive director of Health Law Advocates, the Boston public interest firm that filed the suit on behalf of the immigrants, told the Globe that there was no evidence that lawmakers were interested in federal immigration law when they cut benefits in 2009 during budget negotiations.
We think because of the harm caused to our clients, the harm to their health and their constitutional rights, we think this case should be resolved as quickly as possible,” Selig said.
Read the documents here and here.