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Health Insurance Cooperative Get New Life

As usual the close of the state’s legislative session brought both good and bad news to local businesses.

One very positive item for both small business and local chambers of commerce was the passage of a measure to keep the state’s innovative Small Business Health Insurance Cooperatives operating and serving employers of 50 and under. The Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce offers discounted health insurance to its members as part of the statewide cooperative operated by the Massachusetts Association of Chambers of Commerce (MACCE), one of just three co-ops in the state.

In the Economic Development bill passed Sunday, an important section sponsored by Representative Kate Hogan (D-Stow) allows for new financial incentives to use wellness and provider transparency tools through small business cooperatives. In reaction to double digit premium increases for small employers following the passage of “RomneyCare,” the Legislature in 2010 authorized group purchasing through non-profit cooperatives with upfront premium discounts. Yet, those savings are evaporating under preemptive Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements on state rate setting. The ACA required phase out of state rating factors, means no upfront premium flexibility remains to award employees for using wellness programs, or to shop around for the low cost, high quality healthcare providers—common practices for large employers. The new state legislation moves upfront premium incentives to the end of the insurance contract period in the form of rebates, which remains legal under federal rules. The section also encourages the Baker Administration to seek an Innovation Waiver from the federal government under the ACA to seek more flexibility and fairness for Massachusetts small businesses and their employees.

Stay tuned for more information about you may be able to save money on your health insurance by participating in a cooperative sponsored wellness program.

For the first time in years, the legislature did not approve a sales tax holiday and retailers are also disappointed that the Sunday time and a half premium pay remains a requirement in Massachusetts but not elsewhere.
Pay equity legislation was passed, but with less onerous requirements than originally proposed thanks to the work of Associated Industries of Massachusetts, The Retailers Association of Massachusetts and the Boston Chamber.

There are many other issues that did not make it through this session but are likely to come up again in 2017. Please let us know your thoughts on what issues are important to your business. The Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee meets regularly to discuss issues and hear from knowledgeable speakers about how these issues will impact your business.

On a related note, mark your calendar now for the Chamber’s Annual Legislative Reception which will take place on Thursday, September 29th from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at the Endicott Estate in Dedham.