Massachusetts Employers Form Group to Fight Health Care Fee Increases

By Staff Report

Jun. 6, 2008

Employers in Massachusetts have formed a new lobby group with most of the state’s health insurers to fight possible increases in the fees they must pay to fund the state’s underfinanced universal health care law.

The Coalition for Affordable Health Care, which met for the first time Wednesday, June 4 in Boston, said it will focus on ways to reduce health care costs. The group said costs for commercial health plans have risen 10 percent in each of the past seven years, and it fears that cost overruns for the state’s universal health care law will translate into increased payments to the state’s health care fund.

The group opposes efforts by health care advocates, such as the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, to get businesses to contribute more for employees’ health care.

Since Massachusetts’ law requiring all residents to purchase health insurance went into effect last year, roughly half of the state’s estimated 700,000 uninsured residents have obtained health insurance.

However, the coverage has come at a steep cost to state coffers. The state’s top budget official recently told the Boston Globe that it expects to spend much more than the $869 million proposed in the governor’s budget.

Even subsidized premiums have not been cheap enough for many residents to afford health insurance. The state has waived the mandate for about 20,000 residents even as the program has cost more than anticipated.

As the state looks to other funding sources, including a cigarette tax increase, pressure is mounting on employers to contribute more. The Coalition for Affordable Health Care says the solution rests in finding ways to reduce health care spending rather than on taxing businesses and spending more.

The coalition includes major health insurance companies, hospital associations and employer groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association.

The group’s effort to find more affordable ways to provide health care will also help companies struggling to recruit and retain employees because they lack competitive health benefits.

—Jeremy Smerd

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