Massachusetts Sees Nearly 300,000 Uninsured Enroll For Coverage Under Health Care Law

2007-12-07 13:46

Massachusetts officials on Wednesday said that nearly300,000 formerly uninsured residents have enrolled in some form of healthinsurance over the past 18 months, the Boston Globe reports. According to the Globe,the number surged to 293,000 in the last month as people rushed to enroll in ahealth plan before the end of the year. Under the law, most residents mustobtain health coverage by the end of the year or face penalties.

Officials said that they do not know how many people remain uninsured but thatthey expect thousands of more residents will meet the deadline. The U.S. Censuslast year estimated that there were 657,000 uninsured Massachusetts residents, while the stateestimated 395,000 residents were uninsured. According to the Globe,"Based on those figures, the progress represents coverage for nearlyone-half to three-quarters of the uninsured."

Most of the newly insured are enrolled either in MassHealthor Commonwealth Care Both programs are run by thestate, and beneficiaries contribute a small copayment or receive no-costcoverage, "leading some critics to suggest that the state has accomplishedonly the easy part of its task," the Globe reports. About63,000 of the newly insured are enrolled in private insurance plans. Stateofficials expect that number to reach 100,000 by the end of the year. Healthcare advocates were successful in persuading the state to push back applicationdeadlines for some health care programs from Nov. 20 to the end of the year(Dembner, Boston Globe, 12/6).

Employer Costs

In related news, a reportreleased on Thursday by the MassachusettsTaxpayer Foundationestimated that employers will spend $175 million more per year for workers'health coverage under the state's insurance law, the Globe reports. The increase includes $150million in additional costs as more employees enroll in employer plans and $24million for new prescription drug benefits. In addition, the report estimatesthat 50,000 employees and their dependents will enroll in employer-sponsoredcoverage to comply with the insurance mandate.

The report concluded that the state's new health care system could faceproblems if health care costs are not controlled. "The delicate balance ofshared responsibility among government, employers and individuals -- and thebroad consensus of support for health care reform in Massachusetts -- assumesthat health coverage will not become unaffordable for any of the parties, anassumption that will be constantly tested as more and more residents becomeinsured," the report states (Finucane, Boston Globe, 12/7).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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