Amendment Seeks to Force Waiver from Federal Health Reform

Posted by John Regan on Jun 25, 2013 4:03:00 PM

The chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee has filed a measure to force the administration to seek a waiver from elements of federal health care reform that could raise premiums for businesses and consumers in Massachusetts.

Health Care ReformSenator Stephen Brewer, in an amendment to a bill reconciling state health reform with the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), also seeks to require that any negotiations with federal officials over a waiver be conducted in consultation with a member of the House and Senate.

Senators may debate the Brewer amendment as soon as tomorrow. The House passed a version of the state-federal health care reconciliation bill without the waiver provision, and any differences must be worked out in a conference committee.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts has both privately and publicly supported a waiver to prevent federal health reform from setting back the Bay State’s highly successful seven-year effort to provide insurance coverage for all of its citizens. The association urges the Senate to adopt the Brewer amendment.

“The commonwealth, by and through the governor or the governor’s designee, shall formally request a federal waiver to avoid the adverse effects of rating and rule changes to the Massachusetts merged market, to protect consumers and businesses in the commonwealth and in an effort to maintain current Massachusetts rating and rule requirements,” the proposed amendment reads.

“All negotiations with any federal agency concerning this waiver shall be conducted in consultation with a member of the House of Representatives as appointed by the speaker of the house and a member of the Senate as appointed by the Senate president.”

The measure would also require Governor Deval Patrick to file a “detailed report” on the waiver application by October 1, 2014.

AIM is concerned that key provisions of the ACA that were supposed to dovetail with the Massachusetts reform law instead threaten to accelerate the already burdensome cost of health insurance for employers. The concerns include a health-care premium tax that will cost Massachusetts $3 billion during the next decade and a provision reducing rating factors used in the combined individual/small business market could increase health-insurance premiums for 60 percent of small companies.

“We thank Senator Brewer for his amendment on the need for a waiver. Employers are grateful that lawmakers are aware of the potential challenges with ACA and are willing to take action,” said Kristen Lepore, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

Lepore and I discussed AIM’s concerns about the ACA last week with members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation. We stressed that the concerns do not diminish AIM’s support for the mission of both state and federal health reform to make health insurance more affordable and accessible to Americans.

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