Premiums to Start at $30-$140/Month Under Mass. Mandatory Health Plan

June 5, 2006

An analysis by the Romney administration found that many Massachusetts low-income residents will have to pay from $30 to $140 a month under state’s new mandatory health care plan, according to a published report.

The analysis offered the first glimpse of costs under the state’s insurance initiative, the first state program in the country to offer nearly universal health care coverage, according to the Boston Sunday Globe.

Residents who make less than $9,800 — the federal poverty level — would have their entire monthly premium paid by the state, costing tax payers about $300 each.

As people’s incomes go up, the state subsidies decrease. The state will cover 80 to 90 percent of premium cost for individuals who earn between $10,000 and $20,000 a year. For people who make $20,000 to $29,400, the state contribution falls to 47 percent, or about $1,680 a year.

Health and Human Services Secretary Timothy Murphy said the state developed the premium ranges based on income and likely expenses.

Consumer advocates contend that the premiums will be within the reach of many low-income residents. However, they worry that some income groups, including those that make between $20,000 and $30,000, won’t be able to balance the mandated costs and their other expenses.

“One person may carry heavy students loans, while someone else might be free and clear,” said John McDonough, executive director of Health Care for All, an advocacy group that helped build support for the law. “Some families may need day care and a car for transportation, others don’t. The amount of these subsidies is going to be a critically important piece.”

The low-income subsidies are the lynchpin of the law, which will require everyone in the state to have health insurance by July 1, 2007.

The legislation also creates the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, an authority which will implement the law and make final decisions about the size of the subsidies. The authority is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

The law requires that the low-income insurance plans be finalized by Oct. 1. The state may subsidize up to 200,000 uninsured residents with incomes up to $29,400 for an individual and $60,012 for a family of four.

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