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Slow approach needed for Mass. cover rules


WHEN SOMETHING IS SO BIG and hasn't been tried before, it makes sense to go slowly.

Fortunately, that is the approach being taken by Massachusetts regulators as they move to implement the state's universal health care reform law.

As we report on page 3, the state agency that is playing a key role in implementing the 2006 law has proposed putting off by 18 months a requirement that residents, including those in employer-sponsored plans, be covered in health plans that offer a minimum level of coverage and benefits. State residents who do not comply with that requirement--now with a proposed effective date of Jan. 1, 2009--would face financial penalties.

By delaying the effective date of the minimum coverage requirements, employers have the time to make the necessary fixes to their plans to prevent their employees from facing penalties.

Similarly, we welcome the decision to ease an earlier proposed requirement that employers offer to virtually all of their part-time employees the ability to make pretax contributions to a health insurance plan.

Such a requirement hardly would have been practical, as the contributions for health insurance coverage for employees working only a few hours a month would likely have exceeded their incomes, making it unlikely those individuals would opt for the coverage.

The most important point is that state regulators have given employers and others ample time to comment on the proposed rules. To their credit, Massachusetts health regulators have been open to the views of the business community in fashioning rules in the past, and we are confident that this will again be the case.