Mass. governor wants veto power over most medical rates

An expected mixed reaction of hope, worry and cautious optimism greeted Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's proposal to give the state insurance commissioner broad powers to reject healthcare rate increases at institutions, as well as limiting premium rate hikes coming out of insurers.

In a 40-page bill that dovetails off consumer frustration with rising health premiums, Patrick proposes the insurance commission have the power to:

  • Disapprove rates hospitals and other health providers charge if they increased faster than the level of medical inflation.
  • Turn down premium increases that exceed one-and-a-half times the level of medical inflation for health insurance plans sold to employers with 50 or fewer workers.
  • Impose a two-year moratorium on lawmakers' mandating any new health benefits that must be covered by insurance plans.

"Eighty-five percent of our economy is in small business, and they are drowning in these premium increases,'' Patrick said.

The potential to review and reject rates spelled out Wednesday would extend to hospitals, physician groups, medical imaging centers, and insurers.

Legislative leaders praised the intent, but did not promise vote support. Reaction to Patrick's proposals was expectedly mixed: small business groups expressing cautious optimism, insurers saying the measures do not go far enough, and healthcare providers worrying that smaller hospitals could be harmed.

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe article