A new law was signed today in Massachusetts that offers relief to independent retailers looking for meaningful health care cost-cutting. Thanks to the new law, Massachusetts small businesses and their employees will now have the ability to take part in cooperative small business health insurance purchasing. The outcome is partly the result of the hard work of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which joined forces with 46 chambers of commerce and not-for-profit organizations, for the express purpose of getting small businesses and consumers to the table with big business, insurers, government and providers.
The new legislation will set up an important model for the implementation of health care reform, both on a state and federal level. The law also calls for vital premium, medical loss ratio and mandate compliance transparency requirements. A total of 85,000 individuals will be represented under six cooperatives–a major step in eliminating the regulatory and marketplace discrimination that was set in motion during the 1990s, when groups of under 50 individuals were prohibited from group buying. Under the new law, consumers can work together via innovative programs once implemented only by very large employers, such as wellness programs, cost and quality data education and usage, and limited provider networks. This potentially translates to greater savings over time, as more members become healthier and better educated.
Extensive insurer disclosure will now be required, as well as transparency on premiums. For the first time, administrators of self-insured clients will be required to provide full disclosure on the level of compliance with state-mandated benefits. Under federal law, many large employers can avoid this.