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April 13, 2006
Mass. Governor Signs Groundbreaking Health Care Legislation

Massachusetts broke new ground when Governor Mitt Romney signed a health care reform that aims to cover most of the state's uninsured population over the next three years. House Bill 4850 aims to cover most of the state's uninsured population over the next three years. If it works, the plan is expected to cover 515,000 of the state's uninsured population within three years, which is about 95 percent of the total uninsured.

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Governor Romney vetoed a provision requiring an employer contribution, but lawmakers are expected to override the veto, according to a report in the Boston Globe. The law also imposes an individual coverage mandate.

 What it does. Among other things, HB 4850 will:

  • Impose a free-rider surcharge for employers who do not provide health insurance and their employees use free charity care, a charge which would be activated when an employee receives free care more than three times in a year, and which would be based on the cost to the state of providing the care
  • Provide an exemption to the free-rider surcharge, under which employers would start to pay only after their employees access $50,000 worth of free charity care
  • Require all residents to have healthcare insurance starting in July, 2007, but would also help the poorest residents to pay for it: Those who earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level would pay premiums on a sliding scale with no premiums and no deductibles
  • Penalize those who fail to get coverage. Those without insurance will lose part of their 2007 state tax refund. The amount of money withheld will not exceed the cost of 50 percent of an affordable health insurance premium
  • Set up the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, which would .connect individuals and small businesses with available private health-insurance options, and which would enable them to buy coverage with pre-tax dollars. This program would also serve as the vehicle through which employees would be able to take their coverage from job to job.
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