Boston Herald – The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce threw its support today behind a new health-care payment reform bill filed by the Legislature’s conference committee, saying it was a step forward for health-care affordability and transparency.

“It sets a goal for health-care costs that builds on the progress we’ve made over the last 18 months, while preserving the innovation that drives our health-care system,” said Chamber Executive Vice President Jim Klocke.

Chamber officials said Bay State health-care premium growth slowed in recent months, driven in part by new agreements between insurers and providers that move away from the fee-for-service model.

“The legislation will also help patients make more informed choices, by providing access to information on health-care costs and quality,” Klocke said.

Retailers are also praising an amendment on Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk that repeals the fines businesses are charged for hiring too many employees that already have insurance under a different health-care provider.

Businesses are currently fined $295 per employee per year for uncovered workers, unless the business offers prime insurance and has an enrollment rate over 25 percent, said Vincent Errichetti, executive director of the Restaurant and Business Alliance, adding the amendment particularly benefits veterans, students, retired people and spouses.

“The math of the formula just was really hurting small businesses because small businesses couldn’t afford to absorb those types of costs,” Errichetti said.

“Paying for insurance and paying for a penalty is not fair,” added Robert Branca, chairman at Dunkin’ Donuts Franchise Owners Mass PAC. “The penalties to me seem needless. They don’t modify my behavior one bit. They just cost extra money that I could put into expansion.”

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, called the amendment “the number one win of the two-year session for small businesses.”

“It’s a reform of the Fair Share assessment and there have been too many businesses, not just retail, that have been unfairly assessed for employees that are fully insured yet opt to buy insurance from a spouse, the spouse’s employer, from parents, some other source,” Hurst said. “Whether it was real or not there were a lot of employers reluctant to grow because they didn’t want to have to deal with red tape or potentially more insurance costs associated with the 11 full-time equivalent threshold. That should help us gain more jobs in the small business sector.”