Healthcare providers, community-based organizations, policy and labor advocates back proposed fee on employers that don't provide adequate health insurance to employees
Boston, MA (March 15, 2017) – Nearly two dozen community-based organizations, health providers and advocacy groups have authored a letter in support of reinstating Massachusetts’ employer responsibility provision. The proposal by Governor Charlie Baker would reinstitute a fee on Commonwealth employers that fail to provide adequate health insurance to their workers.
In a letter addressed to Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Brian Dempsey, Chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means, the diverse group of organizations describe the employer responsibility provision as a critical component of Massachusetts’ groundbreaking 2006 healthcare law, which was successful in dramatically expanding health insurance coverage in the state. The organizations support reinstating the provision to ensure that the Commonwealth can continue its goal of providing quality and affordable care for all.
“Massachusetts was successful in expanding coverage due to the broad commitment to shared responsibility among consumers, providers, insurers and employers,” the letter says. “If we are to continue leading the nation on healthcare reform, we must ensure employers do not shirk their responsibility to provide affordable coverage, thereby shifting costs to state health care programs.”
MassHealth, the Commonwealth’s federal state-health insurance program, provides coverage for about 1.9 million low-income residents in the state. It currently costs approximately $15 billion a year – almost 40 percent of the state budget. The number of residents insured through MassHealth has grown in recent years.
“Massachusetts is the national leader in healthcare reform, but to continue to be successful all of us – advocates, policymakers, employers, providers and insurers – must work together to ensure we have a model that is affordable and sustainable,” said Stephen Rosenfeld, interim executive director of Health Care for All and whose organization signed the letter. “We’re fortunate that many Commonwealth employers offer strong health insurance for their workers, and this commonsense provision will help to address those gaps in coverage that are hurting employees and costing our state significant money.”
The organizations say the employer responsibility provision is especially important now, given the current proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act being pushed by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration.
“Lynn Community Health Center is committed to providing high quality, affordable care, a mission that has been greatly aided by Massachusetts’ 2006 healthcare law and the Affordable Care Act,” said Lori Abrams Berry, CEO at Lynn Community Health Center, whose organization also signed the letter. “Given the uncertainty at the federal level, we must embrace provisions that enable Massachusetts to continue its leadership role in healthcare reform. This is critical to ensure our state can continue to enjoy near universal coverage and growth in what is Massachusetts’ largest industry.”
Healthcare coverage for workers across Massachusetts could be jeopardized if the ACA is repealed and the state fails to act on the employer responsibility provision, according to the letter.
“This employer responsibility provision will help guard against federal uncertainty and provide greater stability to Massachusetts’ healthcare industry,” said Tyrék D. Lee Sr., Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, the largest healthcare union in Massachusetts and a signatory to the letter. “Just as important, this proposal is critical to the tens of thousands of healthcare workers who depend on this sector for their livelihoods, and to all of our children and families who deserve and rely on affordable, quality care.”
The proposed fee by the Baker Administration would apply to employers that pay less than 60 percent of their employees’ health insurance premiums and cover less than 80 percent of their workers. The letter goes on to say that while many Massachusetts employers “do the right thing” and provide healthcare coverage, more must be done to ensure balance between private and public plans.
“With recent Medicaid expansions and robust subsidization of premiums for private plans purchased through the Massachusetts Health Connector, state government is doing its part,” the letter says.
A total of 21 organizations signed the letter, including Boston Medical Center, Lynn Community Health Center, Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, the Mass. Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, Mass Senior Action Council, Boston Center for Independent Living, Health Law Advocates, Massachusetts Communities Action Network, the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery, Massachusetts Public Health Association, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, Committee of Interns and Residents, Coalition for Social Justice, and SEIU Locals 509, 888 and 32BJ, and the SEIU State Council.