A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Health Care Market

Our MA's Health Insurance Premiums the Nation's Highest? Apparently Not...

Around these parts, we often assume our health insurance premiums are the highest in the nation, by a longshot. Doesn't appear to be the case. Check out this new federal data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality -- data obtained through the annual MEPS (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey) -- of 13,000 families and 32,000 persons, 2004. Here's the "average total premiums ... for private sector establishments for areas within State: US 2004:" Read more »

Nongroup Small Group Merger Commission: The Final Meeting

It looks as though the Special Commission to Study the Non-Group and Small Group Market Merger will meet its legislative deadline. Yesterday's final commission meeting opened with a discussion of the revised report from the consultants. The group discussed the impossibility of their task – determining the impact of the market merger on small group and non-group rates in light of many variables associated with ongoing reform. Members lamented the unavoidable wide range and uncertainty of their findings; there was even a quickly-dismissed suggestion that the report be postponed until... Read more »

BBJ Misses the Point on Free Rider Surcharge

There's a LOT of misinformation floating around about the MA health reform law. Most of it word of mouth. Sometimes is gets circulated by the media, and here's a great example: Boston Business Journal's 12/15/06 issue include an opinion column by Morris N. Robinson: "Repeal the free rider surcharge penalty". The free rider surcharge penalty, part of the state's new health insurance law, is expected to raise $160 million in revenue during its first year. Massachusetts appears set to impose this penalty even if employers follow the rules. Read more »

Notes from Connector Staff Info Session on Commonwealth Choice

On Tuesday, the Connector staff held an info session for health plans that will submit bids for Commonwealth Choice plans. A large crowd peppered Bob Carey and John Kingsdale with thoughtful questions. Carey and Kingsdale admitted that some questions raised issues they hadn’t thought about yet. For that reason, Carey and Kingsdale stressed their gratitude for the carriers' participation in the process and encouraged them to submit more questions in writing. The questions mostly were technical in nature – focusing on rating formulas, plan specifics and bidding (all Q&A to be posted on... Read more »

Market Merger Finding: Nongroup Premiums Will Drop 15%, Small Group Will Rise 1.5%

Final estimate – non group premiums will drop by 15% on average and small group premiums will rise by about 1.5% on average as a result of the scheduled merger of the small group and non group insurance markets next 7/1/07. Overall, this news is good – though not as much as expected for nongroup enrollees, and not bad at all for the small group market. This is important. The Special Commission on the Non-group and Small Group Market Merger met this afternoon to discuss its final report. The 216 page draft of the report was completed on Monday and today Commission members sought to clarify... Read more »

Connector Issues Commonwealth Choice RFRs on Schedule

For those eagerly waiting to see the Commonwealth Choice health plan and subconnector RFRs ("requests for responses" -- kind of an "rfp" in drag), the wait is over. The Connector posted the RFRs on its (newly overhauled) website last week (Health Plan RFR - , Subconnector RFR - ). As expected, no big surprises. A few new details that caught our attention: Read more »

Surprising Results from New National Survey on Consumer Directed Health Plans

The Employee Benefits Research Institute and the Commonwealth Fund have released their second annual survey on Consumerism in Health Care, an online survey of 3,158 private insured adults 21-64. The study looks to find trends in the growth of "consumer directed health plans" (CDHPs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), and their impact on consumers. Looks pretty darn unimpressive to us. Hope the folks at the Connector pay attention: Read more »

New MA Health Blogger

He started last October, and I just found out. Please welcome to the world of MA health policy blogging Micky Tripathi, CEO of the Mass. eHealth Collaborative. It's called the MAeHC Blog, and yesterday's post addresses yesterday's NYTimes article exploring the fast expanding world of electronic health records. Micky is now one of the smartest people in the nation on this issue, so we welcome his insights as this arena develops, and we welcome him to the not-so-fast expanding world of health policy blogging in Massachusetts. By my count, Micky's is now the fourth health policy blogsite in... Read more »

NYT on Electronic Health Records

Today's NYT Business Section includes a first rate overview of the promises, potential, pitfalls, and politics behind electronic health records. Click here for a look. Massachusetts is way out front on this due to the Mass. eHealth Collaborative. In January, North Adams will be the first community in the nation where nearly all physicians practices and the local hospital are interconnected. This project is avoiding some of the concerns included in the article -- for example, all patients must sign consent forms before their records can be linked with other sites. But nothing is without... Read more »

Post Market Merger Estimate: Nongroup Premiums Drop 15.1%, Small Group Rise 1.2%

On 11/21/06, the Nongroup/Small group Market Merger Commission met to discuss anticipated effects of the market merger and other aspects of the report they are developing. (Sorry for the delay in this posting.) While the full report is not expected until 12/11/06, the materials previewed key findings worth noting. Post-merger: Read more »

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