MA House Overrides Vetoes of Health Care Bill

April 26, 2006 ( - The Massachusetts House voted overwhelmingly to override Governor Mitt Romney's eight vetoes of the state's new aggressive health care law.

In April the legislature passed a bill requiring all state residents to obtain health insurance by July 2007 (See MA Bill Requires Citizens to Purchase Health Insurance ).   The bill mandated a $295 per person fee on employers who did not provide health care coverage.

Romney signed the bill into law, but used his line-item veto power to reject eight provisions of the measure, including the $295 fee (See Romney Vetoes Per-Employee Health Coverage Charge ).

Administration officials said the fee might discourage some employers from providing health care, believing that the fee would cost less.   The Associated Press reports that Democratic leaders in the House said the fee was important because the law requires individuals and the state to contribute to the expansion of health care, and businesses should be required to contribute also.

Aside from overriding the veto of the fee, the House also voted to restore a provision of the law guaranteeing dental benefits to Medicaid recipients, the AP said.   Romney had vetoed the dental benefit saying 60% of employers in Massachusetts do not offer the benefit to their workers. He also said the provision was unsustainable because it would cost $75 million a year.

Another veto the House overturned was for a provision to give state health coverage to “special status aliens” – legal immigrants who have come with the sponsorship of an individual who agreed to be financially responsible for them.   Romney said the law should take into account the financial status of the sponsor.

Romney’s communications director Eric Fehrnstrom said the vetoes were relatively minor compared with the ambitions of the new law.   “These differences with the Legislature are not essential to the goal of getting everyone covered with insurance,” Fehrnstrom said, according to the AP.