NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 31, 2009

Massachusetts has the most expensive family health insurance premiums in the country, according to a new analysis that highlights the state's challenge in trying to rein in medical costs after passage of a landmark 2006 law that mandated coverage for nearly everyone, says the Boston Globe.

The report by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health care foundation, showed that the average family premium for plans offered by employers in Massachusetts was $13,788 in 2008, 40 percent higher than in 2003. Over the same period, premiums nationwide rose an average of 33 percent. Without significant cost reforms, an annual family premium in Massachusetts will soar to $26,730 by 2020. Luckily, steps have already been taken to control costs, says the Globe:

  • One of the first steps to control costs was taken last year, when the Legislature passed a sweeping bill that restricted some payments and gifts to doctors from pharmaceutical and medical device companies and created a commission to recommend changes in how providers are paid.
  • Last month, the commission suggested that private and public insurers scrap their method of paying doctors and hospitals negotiated fees for individual visits or procedures, and instead put providers on a "global budget."
  • The idea is so controversial and the suggested fix so time-consuming to achieve that the commission recommended phasing it in over five years.

But other efforts to control health spending are moving ahead, says the Globe. Blue Cross is already signing up providers to participate in an insurance plan similar to the "global budget," and it now covers nearly 20 percent of its patients in health maintenance organizations.  Health Care for All, a Boston-based consumer group, is pushing interim steps that include reducing payments to hospitals for patients who have to be readmitted because of preventable complications.

Source: Kay Lazar, "Bay State Health Insurance Premiums Highest in Country," Boston Globe, August 22, 2009.

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