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Bay State Health-Insurance Mandate Still in Effect

Without an individual mandate, insurance premiums can skyrocket for those who need it most. (TheShiv76/Pixabay)
Without an individual mandate, insurance premiums can skyrocket for those who need it most. (TheShiv76/Pixabay)
December 22, 2017

BOSTON – The federal tax legislation ends the requirement that everyone have health insurance or pay a penalty, but in Massachusetts, that requirement remains in effect. The federal Affordable Care Act was modeled on the Bay State's health-insurance law, including the individual mandate.

Brian Rosman, policy director for Health Care For All, says while the action in Congress had no direct impact on that provision of the Massachusetts law, they are concerned that it could have an indirect impact.

"We're worried about people hearing the news that the individual mandate has been repealed, not realizing that the state of Massachusetts still has their own individual mandate, and people dropping insurance," he says.

This Saturday is the deadline to get coverage that begins on January 1.

Those who miss that deadline still can avoid penalties. Rosman points out that individuals can get coverage starting on the first of February if they sign up by January 23. But not having it at all does have consequences.

"If you're uninsured for more than three months, you'll pay a modest penalty on your income tax in the coming year," he warns. "And the longer you are uninsured, that penalty grows and grows."

The penalty would not apply to those for whom there is no insurance plan they could reasonably afford.

At about 2.5 percent, Massachusetts has the lowest rate of uninsured people in the nation. And according to Rosman, the individual mandate is key to making that happen.

"By assuring that a mix of healthy and sick people buy coverage, the individual mandate keeps premiums low for everyone," he explains. "And, of course, it also protects people's health. You never know when something's going to hit. There's a lot of unexpected disease."

He adds that if people only bought health insurance when they were sick, premiums would skyrocket.

Andrea Sears/Shaine Smith, Public News Service - MA