Businesses Support Expansion Of Massachusetts Health Insurance Requirements For Employers
Fifty-five percent of Massachusetts employers believe a provision ofthe state's health insurance law requiring businesses with 11 or moreworkers to offer health insurance or pay a penalty should be expandedto all companies, according to a poll published on Wednesday in thejournal Health Affairs, the Boston Globereports. Under the law, businesses with 11 or more full-time workersare required to pay an annual fee of up to $295 per employee if they donot offer to pay at least 33% of individual employees' health insurancepremiums. According to Jon Gabel, a senior fellow at the University ofChicago National Opinion Research Center who led the poll, the fee represents about one-tenth of the average company cost of providing insurance.
Thepoll surveyed 1,056 randomly selected Massachusetts firms betweenFebruary and June and compared the data to a nationwide surveyconducted by another organization when appropriate. According to thepoll, support for expanding the requirement was greater among companieswith three to 10 employees that are not affected by the current lawthan among employers with more than 1,000 workers, the Globereports. However, a majority of small businesses that do not offerhealth insurance did not want to be subject to the requirement,according to the Globe.
The poll also found thatemployers in the state were no more likely than those nationally to saythey were planning to eliminate or restrict eligibility for workercoverage. Fewer than 3% of Massachusetts small businesses said theylikely would drop employee health benefits. However, 28% of employerswho do not offer insurance said they planned to limit workers' payraises so employees could continue to qualify for state-subsidizedhealth coverage, which is available for residents with incomes up to300% of the federal poverty level. Michael Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, said, "That's certainly an unintended consequence. If we actually see employers doing that, we'll have to address it." The Globe reports that expanded enrollment in the state program "could strain the state budget."
Inaddition, the poll showed that premiums cost nearly twice as much forMassachusetts workers insured through their employers compared with therest of the nation and that insurance costs increased at a faster ratein Massachusetts last year than in any other state.
The poll is the first in a series of annual reviews commissioned by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of business reaction to the insurance requirement (Dembner, Boston Globe, 11/14).
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