NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 2, 2007

With the mandate that everyone in Massachusetts have health insurance taking effect on Sunday, more than 130,000 people -- about a third of those who were uninsured a year ago -- now have coverage, officials say.

Observers of the state's progress since the health care law was passed in April 2006 say they are impressed that the varied constituencies -- including health insurers, businesses, advocates, medical providers and taxpayers -- largely continue to support the law and have worked to resolve differences.  There is still a long way to go, says the New York Times.

Health care experts view the Massachusetts effort more favorably than one begun in 2005 in Maine, a state with about 130,000 uninsured:

  • Unlike Massachusetts's program, Maine's is voluntary, relies on a controversial financing formula and features more expensive premiums.
  • Fewer than 20,000 people enrolled in the program, many of whom already had insurance.

Still, Massachusetts's model may not work everywhere:

  • When the law passed, the state's 370,000 to 500,000 uninsured represented less than 10 percent of its population, a smaller proportion than many states.
  • And it does not have a scarcity of large employers, like Maine, or a huge number of immigrants, like California.

Massachusetts is deliberately taking things slowly:

  • In 2008, the penalty for those not insured will be a loss of state tax exemption, worth about $219; later the penalty will be up to half of a monthly insurance premium for each month a person is uninsured.
  • Also, while any insurance is acceptable at first, by January 2009, everyone must have drug coverage.

Officials estimate that 60,000 people will be exempt from getting insurance altogether because they will be ineligible for subsidies but unable to afford other options.

Source: Pam Belluck, "Massachusetts Universal Care Plan Faces Hurdles," June 30, 2007.

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