Massachusetts To Enroll Low-Income Residents In Partially Subsidized Health Coverage

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Massachusetts health care officials this month are boosting efforts toenroll low-income residents in subsidized health insurance plans as thestate approaches the Dec. 31 deadline for all residents to obtaincoverage or face tax penalties, the Boston Globe reports.

According to the Globe, more than 100,000 eligible residents have signed up for fully subsidized insurance under the Commonwealth Careprogram, and about 50,000 additional low-income residents have enrolledin Medicaid. However, the state is experiencing more difficultyenrolling people in partially subsidized plans that requirebeneficiaries to contribute a premium. Of an estimated 100,000residents eligible for the partial subsidy, 25,000 have enrolled.

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According to the Globe,"The state is counting on comprehensive enrollment so that the premiumspaid by healthy people can help subsidize those who are sicker," andhospitals "are counting on seeing fewer uninsured patients" inemergency departments.

Reasons uninsured residents might notenroll in the programs include a fear of contact with the governmentamong immigrants; a sense of pride that keeps some low-incomeindividuals from seeking state aid; and more immediate concerns such asthe need for food and shelter trumping the need for insurance, the Globereports. Other residents might have missed the state-sponsoredpublicity campaign, find the sign-up process too complicated orconfusing, or do not want to pay for care they once received at nocost.

To encourage eligible residents to sign up for coverage,the state will send letters to 45,000 people who used the state'scharity care system last year and who have ignored two previousmailings warning them of the $219 tax penalty facing those not insuredby Jan. 1, 2008, and informing them that no-cost care no longer will beavailable. Ten sign-up events also will be held in communities inconjunction with local agencies and politicians. In addition,individual outreach agencies are working through churches, healthcenters and schools to reach eligible residents (Dembner, Boston Globe, 10/27).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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