Enrollment Begins for New Mass. Health care Plan

By David Weber | January 4, 2007

Massachusetts residents who don’t have health insurance and don’t make a lot of money can enroll in a new state health plan that requires them to pay monthly premiums on a sliding scale based on their income.

Richard Powers, spokesman for the recently created Commonwealth Care program, said about 100,000 state residents are eligible for the plan, and 73,000 of those people have been identified and will receive mailings from the state informing them of their eligibility. He said the Legilsature appropriated to $2.7 million to work with local social services agencies and identify the remaining 27,000 eligible residents.

The current enrollment targets individual and family households that live on yearly incomes between 100 percent and 300 percent of the federal povery level. That includes individuals whose annual income is between $9,800 and $29,400. A family of four could have an annual household income between $20,000 and $60,000 and still be eligible for the plan.

In October, the state began enrolling people who fall below the federal poverty level. Those enrollees are not required to pay any monthly premiums.

The current enrollees would pay premiums ranging from $18 to $106 per month for each adult in the house. Enrollees with children must pay between $12 and $28 per child each month through a separate program. The most children any one family must pay premiums for is three. Families larger than that receive free coverage for additional children.

Elizabeth Kelleher, 31, of Somerville, said the new plan is the only way she could afford health insurance. Kelleher is putting herself through law school by working for a small law firm that does not offer her health insurance.

“It’s going to cost me about $100 a month. To me, it’s worth it. I don’t like not having health insurance,” she said.

Until now, people without health insurance often would often appear at hospital emergency rooms when they were sick and hope that the hospitals did not turn them away.

John McDonough, director of the non-profit agency Health Care For All, generally praised the new plan.

“It’s a good plan, and we urge people to enroll. But for some, the premiums are too expensive,” he said.

McDonough said he hopes the state will adjust the premiums after the first year so more people will be able to afford it.

Powers said those who do not enroll in some sort of health insurance will lose their annual personal exemption on their state income tax return. Powers said the rules pertaining to free emergency room care also will change in 2008, providing further incentive for uninsured people to enroll in the new program.

Additional information is available at the plan’s website: www.macommonwealthcare.com

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