Advocacy Issues That Matter
In keeping with our mission of promoting a business friendly environment (and in line with making the South Shore the BEST place to live, work, play—and visit), the South Shore Chamber is proud to take a position on regional, state and federal issues that matter to South Shore businesses most. Working closely with our Government Affairs group, we identify and vet issues, whether raised by members who are or could potentially be affected by various mandates and regulation or through research. We discuss them among the Government Affairs group, then at their suggestion escalate issues to the Executive Committee, then vote to bring it before the Board. Finally, the issue is brought before the Board to vote on taking an official position and what, if any further action should be taken. We may share the position with the media, join a coalition for or against certain issues, write a letter to politicians or to other constituents or other actions that the Board and Chamber executives deem appropriate.
Some examples of current and recent areas of focus are:
- Affordable Care Act
- South Shore Hospital merger with Partners Healthcare
- The “Gas Tax”
- Flood Insurance
- MA Question #2: Expanded Bottle Bill (Our positon)
Definition of Small Groups
Currently, the small group market is defined in Massachusetts as companies with 50 or fewer employees but this will increase to 100 or fewer under a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The South Shore Chamber of Commerce supports Congressional action to allow states to define the size of their small groups. In Massachusetts that will mean keeping the small group market t0 50 and fewer people.
A basic concept behind insurance is premiums can be reduced as more people are in an insurance pool to share risks and costs. (Another is that narrowly selected groups with healthier than average people also can reduce costs and premiums.) In an effort to move more people into the small group market the ACA defines small as100 or fewer employees. But the two markets are not set up the same way and the modest savings some businesses might see would not match the likely increases and loss of flexibility that will be felt by almost every company of 51-100 employees.
For example, the small group market is generally more restricted in the scope of plans and products it offers. It also has some higher cost averaging because in Massachusetts it includes the individual policy market, which is generally higher cost. The larger group market, on the other hand, is generally more flexible and does not subsidize the individual market. Therefore, forcing larger businesses into the small group market will create premium hikes for them. It also promotes unpredictability and confusion about rates for everyone, even if they might ultimately save some money.
By trapping more companies into the restricted small group market it is expected that more companies would move to self-insured plans. These plans are exempt from most of the state insurance mandates and some of the ACA restrictions. This would then have the unintended consequence of reducing the number of employees who are in the broad insurance markets. That of course is exactly opposite of the concept of trying to reduce costs by bringing more people into the general market plans.
STATUS: The South Shore Chamber of Commerce has written to our Congressional delegation in support of amending the ACA so that states can define the right size for their own small group market. The Chamber and a coalition of business organizations met with Congressman Lynch to discuss the negative impact the ACA definition will have on businesses. On September 28, 2015, the U. S. House of Representatives voted to pass HR 1624 which will allow the states rather than the federal government to define the appropriate number of employees a company must have in order to be in the small group market. It is now up to the Senate to act.