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Consumers, Employers and Insurers Weigh In at MCC Hearing

Consumers, Employers and Insurers Weigh In at MCC Hearing

September 10, 2008

MCC HearingThe Connector held a hearing on revisions to the Minimum Creditable Coverage (MCC) regulations yesterday. The regulations determine coverage standards for health plans Massachusetts residents must have to comply with the individual mandate. Board members Lou Malzone, Celia Wcislo, Rick Lord, Dolores Mitchell, and Nancy Turnbull, Connector Executive Director Jon Kingsdale, and Connector General Counsel Jamie Katz heard comments about the proposed regulations from consumers and consumer advocates as well as insurers and employers.

Two panels testified on behalf of the ACT!! Coalition. Health Care For All’s Lisa Kaplan Howe presented concerns that the draft MCC regulations allow plans to limit coverage for services including emergency services, mental health services, prescription drugs, and radiation and chemotherapy. Kathy Bitetti, of the Artists Foundation, followed with examples of plans that have unreasonably low limits on coverage for such services. Debbie Cornwall, a consumer from the American Cancer Society, described her experiences as a breast cancer survivor, emphasizing the importance of adequate coverage for radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Deb Fournier, of the AIDS Action Committee, thanked the Connector for continuing to mandate that creditable health plans include prescription drug coverage, but expressed concerns about limitations in coverage that would make it impossible for people with conditions such as HIV/AIDS to maintain treatment therapy. Jessica Costantino, of AARP, thanked the Connector for requiring that High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) meet MCC standards. Boston Public Health Commission’s Steve Belec and Dr. Dennis Dimitri, president of the Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians. urged the Connector to clarify the preventive care coverage required by MCC regulations. Dianne Pickles, a consumer from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, shared her compelling story of seeking treatment for her son’s heart condition to demonstrate the devastating hardship and injustice of lifetime caps. To read the ACT!! Coalition’s testimony, click here.

A number of employers and insurers offered testimony in support of weakening the MCC standards, including allowing creditable plans that don’t include prescription drug coverage and providing an exemption for High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs). The Council for Affordable Health Insurance and the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans (MAHP) criticized the draft MCC regulations for limiting the flexibility of health plans and argued that the proposed regulations disrupted and disqualified certain HDHPs. MAHP went as far as to suggest that the Board should deem all plans currently sold in the state as creditable.

Members of the business community, including the Massachusetts High Technical Council, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable also opposed the draft regulations because of concerns that they would increase costs.

Several representatives from the Taft-Hartley Fund and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union urged the Connector to ensure adequate coverage standards and to respect the collective bargaining process through which the plans are negotiated by exempting the Taft-Hartley plans from MCC regulations, at least temporarily.

Many of the testifiers suggested that health plans could be linked to the bronze level Commonwealth Choice plans by imposing an actuarial equivalency standard on plans to determine creditability (either in addition to, instead of or as a safe harbor to the current standards).

The Connector is expected to discuss the revised MCC regulations at the September Board meeting and vote on the proposed changes at the October meeting. By January 1, 2009, Massachusetts residents must have a plan that meets MCC standards for the purposes of the individual mandate.

Catherine Hammons