Health Care Reform Will Soon Affect Mass. Businesses

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Nov. 11, 2010

BOSTON — Federal health care reform is starting to trickle down to Bay State businesses.  By January, employers will need to comply with a new set of regulations and start providing new health benefits. To get ready, the state is partnering with business groups, hosting forums around the commonwealth to prepare employers for changes in the law. But even as they present imminent changes, there's still a lot of uncertainty around certain provisions of the law.

Sandy Reynolds, Vice President of the business advocacy group AssociatAT ed Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), hosted the Boston informational session. Although many of the provisions of the federal health care bill are slated to go into effect in 2014, Reynolds said there are immediate changes that employers should be aware of. For instance, as of two months ago, employers have to provide time and a private place where nursing mothers can pump or breastfeed.

Many preventative services like routine checkups, and flu-shots have to be covered without copayments.   

“Well-child care, immunizations, preventative visits to the doctor, colonoscopies are on the list," Reynolds said. "Mammograms are on the list.  It’s a long list.”

Because there are no more copayments for these benefits, Reynolds said that employers should be prepared to see premiums go up by 1.5 – 3%. 
 
But Eileen McAnneny, AIM’s chief lobbyist, said it won’t stop there.  She said there are a number of hidden costs to employers in the federal health care bill.
 
“There are significant new taxes on health insurers, on medical devices, on pharmaceutical companies.  All of them indicated that they will pass along those costs to premium," McAnneny said. "So in the short term, we’re going to see a bump up in premiums.”

While cost is a big concern, so is uncertainty.  With the new Republican majority in the House, federal health care reform is up in the air.  While repeal is unlikely, certain provisions might go away.  And reportedly Republicans are looking to block funding to prevent states from implementing the measures.
 
One attendee at the forum asked what all that would mean for Massachusetts -- and Reynolds wasn't sure. “That’s beyond the scope of my capability to address,” she said.
 
But she said that employers need to stay informed by contacting state agencies and trade groups or by going to the government's main health care reform website.

The next informational forum will be on November 16th in Hyannis.

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