After years of big increases, the premium for my business’s HMO from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts flattened for our September 1, 2012 renewal. The premium actually declined 0.2 percent. We have just received the renewal proposal for the coming year and I’m excited to report that the premium has dropped again, this time by 2 percent.
Here’s what I wrote last year:
I’m cautiously optimistic that we are going to see a few years of premium stability in Massachusetts as providers redesign the provision of care, payers scrutinize contracts and introduce more limited network products, business owners pay more attention to what they’re buying, and consumers learn how to navigate the system more effectively.
Critics of Massachusetts health care reform (mostly from out of state) cite the failure to control cost as one of the major shortcomings. My responses has always been that the idea was to get everyone into coverage first, and then turn toward cost containment as a way to preserve universal coverage. Six years or so after the passage of health reform, we may be turning the corner on costs in Massachusetts. I hope critics of Massachusetts health reform, and its offspring the Affordable Care Act, will reconsider their opposition if the cost trend in the Bay State continues to flatten.
I asked Sharon Torgerson, a BCBS MA spokesperson to comment. She said:
“Premium rates are holding steady thanks to our ability to tightly manage medical costs while keeping administrative costs low. We continue to make progress in our affordability agenda, but we have more work to do. Rising health care costs are still too big of a burden for families and employers and our progress will not be sufficient until we can reliably deliver significant and sustainable premium relief. That will only happen when health care costs grow more modestly and in line with the rest of the economy. Over the past two years, doctors and hospitals have worked with us in a spirit of shared responsibility to create more affordable contracts. We’re hoping that spirit will continue as we renegotiate hospital and physician contracts. “
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for next year.