Mass. employers may pay more for health care

BOSTON Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has pushed through a proposal that would increase the amount of employer contributions to the state’s landmark universal health care plan.

The new regulations would require employers with 10 or more full-time workers to have at least 25 percent of those employees enrolled in company insurance plans and offer to pay at least 33 percent of the premium costs, or else be responsible for paying a $295 assessment fee for each employee. Current rules give employers a choice of offering coverage or paying part of the premiums.

Patrick issued the rule change Monday through his administration’s Division of Health Care Finance and Policy after his proposal was rejected by the state House of Representatives. If they pass a public hearing scheduled for Sept. 5, the new regulations will become law on Oct. 1.

Patrick said the new rules would help raise an additional $45 million this fiscal year to help fund the state's health care plan.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association plans to oppose the governor's proposal, said Janine Harrod, director of government affairs for the group.

"But it will be much harder now because this a politically isolated process," she said.

It is estimated that costs associated with the plan could reach more than $869 million in fiscal 2009, up from $647 million in fiscal 2008, according to a recent report in Business Insurance magazine.

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