Massachusetts May Expand State-Subsidized Health Insurance

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Between30,000 and 40,000 Massachusettsresidents are offered health insurance by their employer but have incomes lessthan 300% of the federal poverty level and cannot afford the premiums,according to a report released Thursday by the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, the Boston Globe reports.

According to the Massachusetts Health Insurance Law of 2006, which establisheda statewide individual insurance mandate, low-income residents who are notoffered insurance by their employers can enroll in state-subsidizedCommonwealth Care plans. The law also gives the Connector authority to coverlow-income residents whose employers offer coverage. The state Legislature lastyear directed the Connector to determine how many people would fall into thatgroup and how much it would cost to cover them.

Expanding the program to cover such people could cost more than $250 millionwithin a few years, according to the Globe. Bob Carey of theConnector board said the move likely would result in 10% of qualifying workersenrolling in the subsidized plans each year.

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Determining how to pay to expand the program will be "daunting" forofficials, the Globe reports. State Secretary of Administration andFinance Leslie Kirwan in March estimated that the program would cost more thanthe $869 million proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) for fiscal year 2009, andan information statement issued in April to bond rating agencies estimated thecost of the program would be $1.1 billion in FY 2009.

The coverage expansion could present other challenges, including that it mightencourage people to leave their employer-sponsored plans for state-subsidizedcoverage or prompt employers to offer less-attractive policies, which couldpush workers to enroll in state-funded policies, the Globe reports.

Connector Executive Director Jon Kingsdale said that covering workers unable toafford employer-based health coverage is central to the agency's mission ofguaranteeing that every state resident has health insurance (Krasner, BostonGlobe, 5/9).

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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