March 8, 2013

Groups urge White House to reconsider ‘borderline discriminatory’ healthcare rule

From: The Hill

By Megan R. Wilson

Groups in Massachusetts are urging the White House to reconsider a proposed rule on insurance premiums that they say is “borderline discriminatory” against small businesses.

In one of a few recent meetings with various organizations at the administration’s Office of Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the Retail Association of Massachusetts and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce argued that the rate review rule — which is intended to keep premiums down — does not take costs to small businesses into account.

The groups pressed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) — the last stop for regulations before they are implemented by federal agencies — to send the rules back to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for revisions.

“It is simply unfair to require small businesses to offer and purchase health insurance, if their opportunities and pricing are not relatively equal to those of their big business competitors,” Jon B. Hurst, the president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, wrote to OIRA Acting Director Boris Bershteyn last month. “Such a scenario is not economically, politically or legally sustainable as it is borderline discriminatory.”

In a letter and PowerPoint presentation that was released from the Feb. 15 meeting, the groups suggested that CMS pay attention to the Massachusetts healthcare system that is already in place. The groups say regulators aren’t taking into account the many effective state-level practices that are in place to contain healthcare costs.

The meeting was one of three on the rule that occurred in late February.

The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the healthcare advocacy nonprofit Families USA held a sit-down with OIRA and CMS on Feb. 20. The group Youth Invincibles met with OIRA the next day.

Youth Invincibles is a nonprofit formed in 2009 “motivated by the recognition that young people’s voices were not being heard in the debate over health care reform,” according to the group’s website.

The group has in the past has pressed CMS to broaden many regulatory definitions that might prevent young people, or others who may have trouble affording healthcare, from attaining coverage.

“Taking these steps will ensure that the broadest group of young people gains quality, affordable coverage as a result of the market reforms discussed in this proposed regulation,” the nonprofit told the agency in a letter sent in December.

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