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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Legislators may tinker with health insurance law

By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff

The state Legislature will probably make a round of changes in the one-year-old law mandating near universal health insurance, but not before late fall, according to Senator Richard T. Moore, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.

The committee heard testimony today from about two dozen advocates, medical providers, patients, and self-employed individuals pressing for changes in controversial aspects of the law, such as how much employers should contribute to health insurance and the most individuals should have to pay for coverage.

More than 75 senators and representatives have signed on as sponsors of a bill to modify the law, called S661 and H1166.

During testimony, Moore said he endorsed a proposal to require that businesses pay at least 50 percent of the premiums for employees’ health insurance if they want to avoid a penalty of up to $295 per employee. Currently, the requirement is 33 percent, set by the administration of former Governor Mitt Romney. Two weeks ago, Moore asked the administration of Governor Deval Patrick to make the change.

If they don’t, he said, “it’s my intention that would be put into the statute.” But he said there was no rush to do that. His co-chair, Representative Patricia Walrath, was mum for now on the issue, although she has previously said she wanted a tougher business requirement.

Other changes proposed at the hearing included setting the maximum that anyone would have to pay for insurance – including premiums, copayments and deductibles – at 10 percent of income. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, the state agency implementing the law, has set limits based only on premiums, and costs for many individuals and families are certain to top 10 percent.

After the hearing, Moore said he wanted to wait for financial analysis on the cost of some proposed changes, as well as a report from the state’s Inspector General on the law’s implementation, before deciding what changes to push forward.

“A couple more months will give us a better handle” on what’s needed, he said.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 06:26 PM
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