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The results are in. Massachusetts’ comprehensive health care reforms passed in 2006 have led the state’s rate of uninsurance to drop by almost half – from 13% in fall 2006 to 7% a year later. 355,000 more adults in Massachusetts now have affordable coverage– more than the entire uninsured population of Connecticut. The reform law, Chapter 58, included significant Medicaid expansions, subsidized private insurance offerings through an independent, trusted, and transparent resource, insurance market reforms and required individual and employer contributions. A survey published today in Health Affairs also found that under Chapter 58 the number of residents with high out of pocket costs and those reporting having trouble paying medical bills are down. The survey reported an increase in preventive care doctor visits, dental visits, a reduction in the number of adults who did not get needed care in the last year, but unfortunately no drop in ER visits. There was an increase in the number of respondents who had trouble finding a doctor or getting an appointment, but a decrease in the number who reported getting fair or poor care in the past year. 71% of state residents support the reforms. Researchers found no evidence of “crowd out” – employers dropping coverage or benefits in response to Chapter 58 requirements. Among the remaining uninsured adults, most are young and working with incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level. Only 11% have access to health benefits through work and 78% considered getting care through the new state programs. 80% reported that it would be difficult to come up with the cost of coverage, 41% had trouble paying other bills, and almost a third were not aware of the individual mandate. As for that mandate – the Dept. of Revenue reports that 86,000 tax filers paid the penalty ($219 for an individual) for remaining uninsured. Next year that penalty goes up to as much as $912.
Ellen Andrews