Section 12. (a) The commissioner shall promulgate regulations governing the establishment and oversight of small business group purchasing cooperatives. The regulations shall require: (i) that all state-mandated benefits are required under plans procured by approved small business group purchasing cooperatives; (ii) that all such plans offer its enrollees access to wellness programs which, at a minimum, shall be actuarially similar to wellness programs that may be offered through the commonwealth health insurance connector authority; (iii) that the group purchasing cooperative obtain a commitment from 33 per cent of its covered employees that the employees will enroll in the health management programs that the group purchasing cooperative provides; (iv) that the group purchasing cooperative establish reasonable systems, which shall comply with any applicable sections of the Americans with Disability Act and any other federal requirements, under which enrollees can record their participation in, and group purchasing cooperatives can monitor enrollees' participation in, available health management programs; (v) that denial of coverage due to the health condition, age, race or sex of the employees and dependents of qualified association members in a group purchasing cooperative is prohibited; and (vi) that no eligible qualified association member of a small business group purchasing cooperative may be charged a premium rate higher than what the carrier would charge to a similarly-situated eligible small business that is not a participant in a small business group purchasing cooperative.
(b) The commissioner shall promulgate regulations governing the application and certification process that a proposed small business group purchasing cooperative shall undergo before the commissioner may certify the group purchasing cooperative as a small business group purchasing cooperative approved to operate in accordance with this section; provided, however, that the commissioner shall certify up to 6 group purchasing cooperatives to operate at any given time; provided further, that the commissioner shall certify any application that meets the requirements of this section up to and until the commissioner has certified 6 group purchasing cooperatives. The commissioner shall limit the number of applications that are approved for each small business group cooperative so that in a given year, the total number of covered lives for all approved group purchasing cooperatives, in the aggregate, shall not exceed 85,000 covered lives. Notwithstanding the provisions of this section, once the limit on covered lives is reached, the commissioner shall not approve the application of a new group purchasing cooperative until a previously approved group purchasing cooperative disbands or until the commissioner disapproves a group purchasing cooperative's annual renewal for failure to comply with the terms of this section and any regulations promulgated in accordance with this section.
(c) The commissioner shall annually certify that a small business group purchasing cooperative satisfies the requirements of this section. Only a small business group purchasing cooperative that has been certified by the commissioner may procure health care coverage for the benefit of qualified association members.
(d) The commissioner shall review the books and records of a small business group purchasing cooperative and the methodology which it confirms the status of qualified associations.
(e) Health care coverage procured by a small business group purchasing cooperative shall be sold to qualified association members and may be sold through duly licensed agents, the commonwealth health insurance connector authority or brokers.
(f) Member-employers of qualified associations purchasing health coverage within a group purchasing cooperative shall not have more than 50 eligible employees.
(g) The commissioner, in consultation with the center for health information and analysis and the commonwealth health insurance connector authority, shall report and make recommendations, as necessary, on the cost savings to the qualified association members that participate in small business group purchasing cooperatives, the impact, if any, on the establishment of small business group purchasing cooperatives to the risk pool and premium costs in the merged market, and whether the authority of the commissioner to certify small business group purchasing cooperatives should be renewed to the house and senate committees on ways and means and the joint committee on health care financing and financial services within 24 months of the first certification of a small business group purchasing cooperative as defined under this section.
(h) Any rates offered by a carrier to a certified group purchasing cooperative under this section shall be based on those group base premium rates that apply to individuals and small employer groups enrolling outside the group purchasing cooperative.