The Massachusetts House of Representatives this morning concurred with a Senate amendment that would require the Patrick Administration to seek a waiver from elements of federal health care reform that could raise premiums for businesses and consumers.
The measure instructs Governor Deval Patrick to request relief from a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) that will limit to four the rating factors used to calculate small group health insurance premiums – age, family size, geographic area and tobacco use. Massachusetts law allows for additional consideration of industry, participation rate, group size, intermediary discount and group purchasing cooperatives.
Reducing rating factors used in the combined individual/small business market could increase health-insurance premiums for 60 percent of small companies.
The Senate passed the waiver request provision 39-0 on Wednesday. The measure, part of a broader bill intended to reconcile ACA with the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law, now heads to the governor.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts commends the House and Senate for addressing a potentially devastating cost issue for employers and their workers. AIM 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.
“We urge Governor Patrick to sign this bill and we look forward to working with the governor to persuade federal officials to preserve the great success of the Massachusetts health reform law,” said Kristen Lepore, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.
The waiver amendment reads:
“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.”
A separate provision says:
“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 Patrick to file a “detailed report” on the waiver application by October 1, 2014.
AIM’s concerns about some provisions of the ACA do not diminish its support for the mission of both state and federal health reform to make health insurance more affordable and accessible to Americans. AIM appreciates the efforts of the Patrick administration, which recently secured a two-year phase-in for the changes to insurance rating factors and annual rate filings, but that temporary latitude falls short of what Massachusetts needs to preserve the hard-won advances it made in 2006.
The association also calls upon the Massachusetts Congressional delegation to take up the cause of a permanent waiver with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AIM representatives met recently with members of the delegation to discuss the ACA and were encouraged by the discussions.