Friday, April 7, 2006Legislators in the Massachusetts General Court, their name for the state legislature, approved legislation on Tuesday, April 4, that would make it the first state in the United States to require all residents to have health insurance and impose penalties for non-compliance. Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican who is expected to run for U.S. President in 2008, is expected to sign the bill.
The bill passed the lower house, the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a vote of 155-2, and unanimously by the state senate. The Democratic Party holds supermajorities in both houses of the legislature.
Among the bill’s provisions are these:
- Businesses that employ more than 10 people are required to provide health insurance for all staff or face fines of $295 per year per uninsured worker.
- Individuals will be required to enroll in a health plan by July 1, 2007, or face tax penalties.
- Health insurers will provide partially to fully subsidized coverage for low-income residents.
At least one other state (Hawaii) requires employers to provide employee health insurance, but no other state holds individuals accountable for coverage.