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Number of Massachusetts Uninsured Keeps Falling

December 7, 2007
Related Topics: Medical Benefits Law, Benefit Design and Communication, Latest News
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The number of Massachusetts residents who lack health insurance continues to fall as the deadline set by the state’s landmark 2006 health reform law for obtaining coverage nears.

Massachusetts officials said Wednesday, December 5, that they expect more than 300,000 people—nearly all who were previously uninsured—to have coverage by January 1, 2008, the date penalties kick in for those who lack coverage.

Since programs created by the reform law began, 293,000 state residents have obtained coverage. Of that number, 160,000 have enrolled in Commonwealth Care, in which the state subsidizes—many times completely—health insurance premiums of low-income state residents.

An additional 70,000 residents have obtained coverage through an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, while 63,000 residents have obtained coverage through Commonwealth Choice, a program that provides non-state subsidized coverage, or coverage through private insurers.

Those figures show that the state has made a huge dent in reducing the number of uninsured over the past year. Prior to the enactment of the law, state officials estimated that roughly 400,000 people lacked coverage.

“We are making remarkable progress in an effort that no other state was bold enough to tackle. Health care reform is working in Massachusetts,” said Lt. Gov. Tim Murray in a statement.

The latest enrollment figures come as a deadline to obtain coverage draws closer. State residents who cannot show they have health insurance by December 31, 2007, will lose their personal exemption on their 2007 taxes, worth $219, and a much greater penalty in future years.

However, state officials estimate that about 60,000 uninsured residents will receive waivers from the health coverage mandate, principally because they can prove affordable coverage is not available.

Filed by Jerry Geisel of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.

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