Report: Mass. health law, similar to Obama's, didn't hurt employer benefits

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The Massachusetts overhaul took effect in 2006. Between 2005 and 2011, employer-based insurance rose by about 1 percentage point in the state — while it fell by nearly 6 percentage points nationally, due to the recession.

Both the Massachusetts law and the federal overhaul include coverage mandates for employers. Massachusetts's version applied to smaller companies than the federal mandate and also carried significantly lighter penalties.

A business that doesn't provide coverage in Massachusetts has to pay a fine of roughly $300 per employee, according to the report, while the federal government will fine employers as much as $3,000 for each employee who receives a subsidy from the government.

But despite those more lenient penalties, employer-based insurance grew in the state, partly because of a separate mandate requiring individuals to carry insurance or pay a penalty, according to the report.

“We had people who were now demanding insurance," Robert Carey, formerly a top official in the Massachusetts insurance exchange, told the consulting firm.

The increased demand also occurred during a period when prices were skyrocketing in the state. The cost of an individual insurance policy soared more than 60 percent between 2003 and 2011, yet people still clamored for employer-based coverage, PricewaterhouseCoopers said.

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