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"Expand the Insurance Partnership to Provide More Health Insurance Coverage" by Julia Jennings

While the state is struggling to finance many programs, health care reform has expanded the state’s responsibility to help those who cannot afford health insurance. Of the state subsidized programs, only one requires an active financial participation on the part of an employer, thereby lowering the state’s burden. Under the Insurance Partnership, an employer requirement provides at least 50% towards the cost of health plans. This allows the state to provide smaller dollar subsidies, ultimately helping more people afford insurance since they can partner with employers to share the cost.

By expanding the Insurance Partnership program, the state would not necessarily be increasing its costs, but instead would be transferring some of its costs away from Commonwealth Care, Premium Assistance, and the uncompensated care pool, in which 40,000 people remain. It would encourage employers to maintain health insurance programs for their employees at a minimum 50% contribution level and would provide a more equitable treatment of similarly situated people in the state.

Expanding the Insurance Partnership requires Legislative reform.

First and foremost, the 6-month crowd out provision needs to be eliminated. The Massachusetts Association of Health Insurance Underwriters (MassAHU), the state’s trade association of independent insurance brokers who specialize in health insurance and employee benefits for hundreds of businesses, families and individuals, suggests a phase in enrollment of currently insured persons, which would not overburden the state immediately. This would be accomplished by expanding eligibility over two years, and by eliminating the employer subsidy for currently insured applicants. We also suggest expanding the Insurance Partnership eligibility to employers with 50 or more employees without an employer subsidy.

To be effective, the Insurance Partnership program must remain a true partnership between the state, the employees covered, and the employers who contribute to an employer sponsored group health insurance program. As the need for increased employee cost-sharing is needed for subsidized programs in the state, the employee cost-sharing in the Insurance Partnership should not be overlooked. The main objective of making changes to the Insurance Partnership plan is to encourage people to opt into their employer sponsored coverage rather than become increasingly dependent on the state to provide their health care. This will help as many people as possible obtain health care coverage without further sending the state’s budget into distress.

Julia Jennings is a vice president at the Sylvia Group and is the immediate past president of MassAHU. She is also on the Legislative Council of the National Association of Health Underwriters and Legislative Committee of MassAHU.

This program aired on November 20, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.

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