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‘Health care costs are killing us’

Staff from Bay Cove Human Services, Pine Street Inn and Seven Hills Foundation and Providers' Council CEO Michael Weekes testified before the Joint Committee on Financial Services on Tuesday, Jan. 12, in support of House Bill 891, An Act relative to access to health insurance for human service providers and their employees.

"Health care costs are killing us," said Aimee Coolidge, Director of Community and Government Relations at Pine Street Inn, noting average increases of about 10 percent annually. "Employees on a family plan are paying 18 to 33 percent of their salary a year. The opportunity to purchase insurance from a more competitive market would help us address these spiraling costs."

Marilyn Lopez-Haddad told the committee that Seven Hills' health insurance costs have doubled since 2009, jumping from $7 million to $14 million. She also noted that many employees choose to go on MassHealth because they qualify.

"Salary increases have never been able to keep pace with insurance increases," Jim Laprade, the senior vice president of operations at Bay Cove Human Services, told the panel. "The amount of dollars drained from service dollars is significant, but this shift (to the GIC) would remedy this."

The Council testified to the benefits of H.891, notably that it would benefit the Commonwealth and taxpayers by lowering the reimbursement costs paid by the state to providers for health insurance. In addition:

  • Employees would have more rate stability and a wider choice of plans;
  • Employers increase affordability for staff and budget for smaller annual rate increases;
  • And clients and consumers benefit from a more stable workforce with reduced turnover.

Noting that the committee often hears from corporations, business owners and insurance companies, the Committee Co-Chairs Sen. James Eldridge and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz thanked Coolidge, Lopez-Haddad, Laprade, Weekes and Patrick Smith of Bay Cove, for speaking.

"It's so crucial to hear from nonprofits, especially human services nonprofits who provide critical services to those who are the most vulnerable," said Eldridge.
Bill H.891 can be found here. A list of committee members can be found here. For questions about this bill, contact Christine Batista.