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April 05, 2006
Massachusetts Set to Have (Almost) Universal Health Care

The Massachusetts legislature has approved legislation that would provide health insurance to almost all of the state's population, the New York Times reports.

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The legislation contains a number of incentives and penalties to encourage greater healthcare coverage among the state's residents. Beginning in July 2007, the state would require all residents aged 18 and older to have healthcare insurance unless they are unable to afford it.

The legislation would require employers with more than 10 employees to pay $295 per employee per year if they fail to provide healthcare coverage. Workers who can afford healthcare coverage but fail to carry it would have to pay more in taxes, the newspaper notes.

The state would subsidize healthcare insurance for lower income individuals. For individuals who earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level, premiums would be set on a sliding scale and the plans would have no deductibles. Individuals who earn less than the poverty level would pay no premiums and no deductibles.

The legislation would also create a program called the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, which would link individuals and small businesses (50 or fewer employees) with health insurance products. Through the program, employees of small businesses would be able to purchase health insurance with pre-tax dollars.

The newspaper notes that the legislation would leave less than 1 percent of the state's 550,000 uninsured residents without health coverage. Governor Mitt Romney has said that he intends to sign the legislation, the newspaper reports.

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