US grant a 3-year phase in period instead of exemption
from new federal rules.
When state officials objected to the new rules of the US
healthcare - on the premises that the costs for small businesses and their
employees would go up, federal health officials decision is that Massachusetts
could change the health law in a phased manner over three years.
Massachusetts Health Care Law of 2006, is seen as a model for the Affordable
Care Act, "We had hoped for a complete
waiver," said Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of
Massachusetts, who had complained US rules would eliminate state "rating
factors" that allow premium discounts for small business cooperatives that
included wellness initiatives.
"This is just a way of
delaying and mitigating the pain," Hurst said.
Kristen Lepore, vice
president of government affairs for the Associated Industries of Massachusetts,
felt the decision to allow Massachusetts more time to implement federal rules
is only a temporary fix.
"There's no legitimate reason
for the federal government to eliminate our rating factors," Lepore said. "We
don't know why we aren't being given the flexibility to do what's already
The senior vice president of
the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans Eric Linzer, felt the phase-in
"will help mitigate but not prevent premium increases."
The phase-in period looks
"like a pig wearing lipstick to many small businesses," said Josh Archambault,
health care policy director for the Pioneer Institute, a public policy research
group in Boston.
"The health reform law
specifically recognized the special circumstances for a state that had already
expanded coverage and reduced their uninsured rate," a spokeswoman for the
centers said in a statement. "As such, we are providing extra time to
transition from Massachusetts' rules for the small group market to the new
At present the state allows
insurers consider 10 factors while setting rates for small businesses, whereas
the federal government has a rating for only 4 factors - age, number of family
members, geographic area and tobacco usage.
To ensure stability for
states that "were succeeding in providing health insurance coverage for their
residents prior to the enactment of the (federal) law," official Gary M. Cohen,
said insurers could implement two thirds of the rating factors by next year,
one third in 2015 and meet all the terms by January 1st
Barbara Anthony, the
Massachusetts undersecretary for consumer affairs and business regulation, said
that "We're pleased to see their understanding of the uniqueness of our market
by allowing the phase-in period," she said of the centers. "Now we have to
refocus our energies on reducing health care costs."
Anthony said that insurers
will not be allowed to charge more overall for small business premiums under
the federal rating factors than they do using state factors. But she
acknowledged premiums may be increased for some employers even as they are
reduced for others.
"If you do nothing, you will
get an increase," Anthony said. "But you don't have to sit still. You can shop
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number:
Robert Weisman, April 2013