Joyce votes to bring relief to small businesses struggling with soaring health care costs

The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation to help spur economic growth by providing small businesses the immediate health care cost relief they need to retain and create jobs and start hiring again, Senator Brian A. Joyce announced today. The comprehensive bill requires insurers to offer affordable health plans, reduces premium fluctuations and promotes wellness programs for small businesses.
“Our small businesses need our support, and today, we took the first step toward alleviating health care costs and both creating and retaining jobs in Massachusetts,” said Senator Joyce.
The legislation delivers an estimated premium relief of 10-to-15 percent with the possibility of more for small businesses to save and reinvest in themselves and their workforce. Additionally, the legislation provides more affordable health care products to small business employers by requiring carriers in the small group market to offer at least one reduced network plan with premiums 10 percent lower than those for a full network plan. Senator Joyce was a leading sponsor of an amendment that allows small businesses and non-profits with 50 or fewer employees to group together and purchase health care plans at lower prices.
Other provisions in the bill:
* A $100 million contribution from the provider community would reduce small business health insurance costs by an additional 2.5 percent.
* Moves to an annual open enrollment period that ends the so-called “jumpers and dumpers” practice of individuals who purchase coverage only for expensive treatment and then drop the coverage, which can drive up premiums.
· Prohibit anti-competitive contract provisions between insurance carriers and health providers that restrict product innovation or tie reimbursement rates to those received by other providers.
· Establish a Mandated Benefit Expert Review process whereby the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy must conduct a comprehensive review of the cost, public health impact and clinical efficacy of all existing mandated benefits every four years.
* Eliminates the cost-spiking practice of measuring the age of employees in five-year increments and replaces it with a yearly measurement of age to smooth out the annual increases as an employee group ages.
* Establishes a pilot program that provides a state enhancement of the federal tax credit program for small businesses that purchase health insurance through the Massachusetts Health Connector and participate in wellness programs.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives.