Massachusetts Ups Penalties for Lack of Health Coverage

By Staff Report

Dec. 30, 2008

Massachusetts residents who are not covered under a health insurance plan in 2009 face higher financial penalties under newly proposed rules.

The maximum penalty next year for those with incomes exceeding 300 percent of the federal poverty level will be $89 for each month an individual does not have coverage, or $1,068 for a full year of noncompliance, according to the guidelines proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue.

In 2008, the penalty for noncompliance was $76 a month, up to a maximum of $912 a year. Penalties for those with income of up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level would remain the same as in 2008. Penalties, though, do not apply for whose income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty level, as such individuals are eligible for free health insurance coverage with premiums completely subsidized by the state.

In addition, individuals can obtain an exemption from the penalty if they can prove that affordable health insurance coverage is not available. In 2007, though, only 1.9 percent of tax filers—roughly 76,000 adults—were uninsured and deemed by state regulators as unable to afford health insurance and exempt from the penalty, which then was only $219.

Imposing penalties on those without health insurance is a key part of the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law, which seeks to move the state very close to universal coverage. An earlier state report found that objective has been met, with more than 97 percent of state residents now insured.

Filed by Jerry Geisel of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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