Massachusetts legislators override Gov. Romneys vetoes of health legislation provisions

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The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Tuesday voted "overwhelmingly" to override Gov. Mitt Romney's vetoes to legislation that aims to expand healthcare coverage to nearly all of the state's uninsured residents by mandating purchase by Massachusetts citizens.

The legislation, which was approved by the state Legislature on April 4, would require all residents to purchase health insurance by July 1, 2007, and would create a low-cost, state-subsidized health insurance program for residents with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Romney signed the bill into law a week later but vetoed several provisions, including one calling for employers with 11 or more workers to provide health coverage or pay an annual fee of $295 per worker. Romney also vetoed other provisions, such as: a section that would extend dental and vision benefits for adult Medicaid beneficiaries; a provision to create a larger, renovated Public Health Council; a provision for “special status aliens” to receive Medicaid benefits and a stipulation prohibiting the Romney administration from changing the financing, regulation of or operation of mental health benefits for Medicaid beneficiaries without first submitting them to the Legislature.

In related news, a California Assembly committee on Tuesday approved a bill Tuesday that would mandate Californians buy health insurance coverage. Currently, 20 percent of California residents, or 6.5 million people, do not have healthcare, according to the Associated Press.

At the center of the California bill, sponsored by Nation and Assemblyman Keith Richman (R-Chatsworth), is a mandate that residents buy themselves health insurance. The details of the plan are still being worked out, but the bill would require that health insurance companies offer an essential benefit plan, which would cover medically necessary services to the country's largest population of uninsured. It would create a benefits fund that would be financed by employers that do not offer health insurance to their workers, individual premiums and state-appropriated dollars.

In the past, California voters have been opposed to forcing private employers from paying health insurance costs. In 2004, voters nullified a state law that would have required large and midsize employers to help pay for health insurance for their workers.