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    Big savings for small business in new, innovative health plans

    FOR YEARS now, small businesses have complained about the big annual premium increases they faced for health insurance. Two years ago, state policymakers agreed to let small companies form purchasing cooperatives to bargain for better rates. Now that experiment is paying off. New health plans announced last week will allow members of the first such cooperative to save at least 20 percent, and in some instances double that, on premiums. Those small businesses have every reason to be pleased, but they should share some of the new savings with their employees.

    The new, less costly health plans are the result of a partnership between Steward Health Care System, the for-profit provider network run by Ralph de la Torre; Fallon Community Health Plan, the state’s fourth-largest insurer; and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, which was instrumental in winning passage of the group-purchasing cooperatives.

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