For Immediate Release - April 01, 2010


CHELSEA - Thursday, April 1, 2010 - The following are remarks from Governor Deval Patrick, as prepared for delivery this morning at a small business roundtable at Chelsea Clocks.

"Before we begin, I'd like you to know about actions we have taken this morning to help reduce the cost of health insurance for small businesses and working families. As you know, I directed the Commissioner of Insurance, under existing authority and starting today, to disapprove base health insurance rates that are unreasonable or excessive. Insurance companies have submitted 274 proposed base rate increases for small businesses - some as high as 34 percent or more. This morning the Commissioner disapproved 235 of them.

"The Commissioner's decision means that the rates that were in effect in April of last year will remain in effect for those companies that were disapproved. Small businesses that have already made a premium payment under the disapproved rate will receive either a refund check or a credit on their next statement.

"I support the Commissioner's decision. For me, this is about jobs and creating the conditions for small businesses to start hiring. Without that, we won't have an economic recovery. Right now, small business owners and working families are drowning in double-digit premium increases. By disapproving excessive and unreasonable base rates we are giving small businesses the economic breathing room they need to start hiring.

"Now, the big insurance companies will criticize this action. But the fact is that for three years now, both they and health care providers have sat around the table talking the issue of excessive cost to death and coming up with no solutions. Small businesses and working families can't wait any longer.

"I have no doubt this is the right thing to do. I understand this doesn't solve all of the challenges facing us or our health care system. For example, some businesses could still see increases due to other rating factors. And providers are not yet part of the solution.

"But that is why I filed an emergency jobs bill to further protect small businesses from "rate shock" and ensure that the providers share in the responsibility of bringing down costs.

"I am calling on the Legislature to act swiftly on the measures that I've put on the table. Small business owners like these people here need our help. I am also calling on hospitals and other providers of health care to do what they can do to lower the costs they are passing on to insurers. You don't have to wait for a change in law. Be part of the solution now.

"We have got to pull together and deal with the fact that health care costs that rise at unsustainable rates every year, year after year, are crushing our economy and most of all, our ability to recover.

"People need to get back to work and we need everyone to help us create the conditions for that to happen. Thank you."