Mass. lawmakers give go ahead for near universal healthcare

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Lawmakers in Massachusetts this week approved a bill that will provide nearly universal health insurance coverage for its citizens. If successful, this obviously could have significant influence over similar measures in other states across the country. 

To pay for the ambitious plan, a combination of financial incentives and also penalties will be used in order to roll out the plan over the next three years towards covering the estimated 500,000 uninsured residents living in the state currently, the AP reports.
           
The bill, as it stands now, will grant the state’s poorest individuals (making $9,500 of less annually) coverage with no premiums or deductibles; from there, those living to up to 300 percent of the federally determined poverty level will be covered using a determined premium scale but with no deductibles; individuals who can afford coverage but remain uninsured will likely see penalties of as much as $1,000 a year; and the already insured will see a slight reduction in their premiums.
           
Though the plan does not call for new taxes, companies that do not offer insurance to their employees will be hit with a modest yearly $295 fee. The bill also will rely on what is called an “individual mandate” that requires those who can get insurance to get it. Obviously that won’t cover the expected $316 million initial cost of the program which is expected to rise to $1 billion by the third year. Funding also is expected through federal reimbursements and existing state spending, the AP reports.
           
“It’s only fitting that Massachusetts would set forward and produce the most comprehensive, all-encompassing healthcare reform bill in the country,” said Democratic House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, in a statement regarding the bill. “Do we know whether this is perfect or not? No, because it’s never been done before,” DiMasi added.
           
The bill still faces approval by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney though his office said in a statement that he supports the measure and that though he will make some adjustments, nothing he does will impact the overall goal of the bill.