Mass. Individual Mandate: The Dog that Didn’t Bark…Yet Again

Individual mandate data released by the Health Connector and Department of Revenue from the 2010 tax year indicate that Massachusetts’ individual mandate is working.  The report shows that 99% of tax filers required to report health insurance status complied, and 92% reported being insured with Minimum Creditable Coverage (MCC)-compliant coverage for all of 2010.  Relatively fewer filers – 44,000 or 1% of filers – were assessed a penalty in 2010, as compared to 2009.

As we have seen over the past six years, shared responsibility is indeed the cornerstone of Massachusetts health reform.  Individuals, government, and business all contribute to make health reform work.  Yesterday on the Washington Post Wonkblog, Sarah Kliff looks at how this principle works from a national lens:

Over the course of five years, insurance coverage in the state has increased, premiums have decreased and virtually everyone has abided by the new requirement. While public opinion is favorable – two-thirds of Massachusetts residents support the law – the state does face challenges ensuring that the law is affordable.

“What we’ve seen in Massachusetts, and what the modeling has supported, is that we wouldn’t really be where we are today without an insurance mandate,” said Sarah Iselin, president of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts. “You can get closer to where we are, but you wouldn’t be all the way there.”

There is no doubt that health reform has been successful in increasing access to health coverage for over 430,000 Massachusetts residents.  But, as Nancy Turnbull asked when the last individual mandate data were released, why are so many of the remaining uninsured low-income?

As with previous years, nearly two-thirds of the full-year uninsured in 2010, or 110,000 people, had incomes below 150% fpl (about $16,000/year for an individual and about $33,000 for a family of four by 2010 standards), many of whom are potentially eligible for MassHealth or Commonwealth Care.   With implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we have an opportunity to re-engage the health care community to find and enroll people into the subsidized health insurance coverage they are eligible for.
-Suzanne Curry

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