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Governor Patrick today announced a series of plans supporting small business and job growth, and one of the areas of focus is on reducing the burden of health insurance costs on small businesses.

Business owners and support organizations are facing health insurance percentage increases in the double digits – as high as 40 percent in some cases. These increases are difficult to handle for the 800,000 Massachusetts residents who are covered under small-group insurance plans and business who use them.

One of the important reforms announced by the Governor today is regulatory reform that gives the Commissioner of Insurance immediate ability to review rate filings from health insurance carriers in advance of taking effect. Until now, carriers were able to file rate changes on the day the rate took effect, creating a potentially difficult denial process if rates were already in effect and then rejected by the Commissioner.

Now, 30 days before taking effect, rate plans will need to be filed with the Division of Insurance. This will give the Commissioner time to consider whether or not the rates are reasonable in relation to the benefits provided.

The Governor announced other small-group health insurance initiatives today, including the creation of more affordable options through “selective network” products, reviewing administrative charges in small-group plans, creating open enrollment periods for individuals, and setting a two-year moratorium on new mandated benefits. The Governor also announced his plans to file legislation that will create oversight of provider rates as well.

Small businesses are the engine that drives our economy, and small businesses will play a leading role in our ongoing economic recovery. Creating the best environment for growth includes putting a leash on increasing small-group health care costs, and these actions recognize the shared responsibility between insurers, providers, business and consumers to end the trend of soaring costs.

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