MA Residents Face Higher Health Care Assessment

December 30, 2008 ( - The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has proposed higher penalties for residents who do not have health care insurance as required by the state's 2006 mandate.

Business Insurance reports that under the proposal, the maximum penalty in 2009 for those with incomes exceeding 300% of the federal poverty level will be $89 for each month an individual does not have insurance, or $1,068 for a full year of noncompliance. This is up from $76 a month, up to a maximum of $912 a year, in 2008.

Unlike penalties for residents not insured, penalties for employers have not risen from the $295 per employee established in the mandate passed in 2006. Under the current program, an employer is exempt from the annual $295 per employee assessment if at least 25% of full-time employees are enrolled in its group health insurance plans or if it pays at least 33% of the premium for individual coverage for employees within 90 days of their starting work.

In August lawmakers approved legislation to boost funding for its state-subsidized health care program that included assessments from health insurers and hospitals, as well as a cigarette tax (see Employers not Included in Funding Boost for MA Health Care Program ).

Under the current proposal, penalties for those with incomes between 150% and 300% of the federal poverty level would remain the same as in 2008, according to Business Insurance. Individuals can obtain an exemption from the penalty if they can prove that affordable health insurance coverage is not available to them.

Resident penalties are key to the health care reform mandate’s goal of moving the state to universal health coverage. An earlier state report indicated 97% of residents are now insured, the news report said.