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December 7, 2012

Bay Staters expected to take financial hit from 'Obamacare'

BOSTON — Massachusetts families and small businesses are scheduled to be hit with higher health insurance premiums starting in 2014 when a new federal tax on health plans kicks in, jeopardizing the state’s efforts to rein in health care spending, according to a new report and industry leaders.

With the focus from politicians and government leaders on tax increases and spending cuts associated with the near-term fiscal cliff, other looming tax increases also stand to have chilling effect on business growth.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans will be hit with a new sales tax in 2014 projected to generate $8 billion initially and up to $14.3 billion by 2018. The tax increases each year after it takes effect, and the Congressional Committee on Taxation estimates the health insurance tax will exceed $100 billion over the next decade.

A new report from America’s Health Insurance Plans estimates that Massachusetts families and small businesses will be hit particularly hard. The excise tax extends to Medicaid Advantage and Medicaid Managed Care plans.

The state-by-state analysis, conducted by Oliver Wyman for the payer organization, projected that Massachusetts would be the tenth hardest hit state in the country by the new tax approved by Congress to help pay for the expansion of health care coverage under ObamaCare.

From 2014 through 2023, the tax will cost Massachusetts residents and businesses an estimated $3.85 billion to $3.89 billion in surcharges on health plans, according to the report.

“At a time when the state is taking steps to contain cost, the health insurance tax at the federal level is going to exacerbate the challenge of getting costs under control,” said Eric Linzer, senior vice president for government relations at the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans.

Families purchasing health plans through the private market would pay on average $9,937 more over the next 10 years for their plans, second only to New York, while family coverage offered through Massachusetts small business would rise by $7,895 over that period. The cost on small businesses in Massachusetts, which is typically shared with employees, ranked fifth behind West Virginia, New York, New Hampshire and Nebraska.

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