Romney Vetoes Per-Employee Health Coverage Charge

April 12, 2006 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney on Wednesday signed into law an uninsured health care bill, but rejected a key provision assessing a $295-per worker charge on employers not offering health coverage.

The bill, intended to extend coverage to Massachusetts’ estimated 550,000 uninsured, is being touted as a national model, thrusting the state to the forefront of the national debate about how to provide near-universal health care coverage without creating a single government-controlled system, the Associated Press reported.

Romney used his line-item veto power to strike eight portions of the bill, most significantly the $295 fee. Administration officials say the fee could drive away registration for the new health program, since some employers might consider it cheaper to pay the fee than to insure workers, according to the news report

“It’s a very small feature of this bill. It’s a very insignificant and unnecessary and, in some respects, counterproductive element of this bill,” Romney had told The Associated Press in an interview on Tuesday. “It applies to a tiny number of employers, and it raises a very small amount of money relative to the scale of this entire proposal. So I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Leaders of the heavily Democratic state House and Senate said they would override any changes made by the Republican governor.

“To change anything will disturb the delicate balance that made this law possible,” House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi said in a statement. “Each and every element of this law is critical to accomplishing our intentions and goals.”

In addition to the assessment for businesses, the bill would provide subsidies and sliding-scale premiums to get poor and low-income residents into health plans. Those deemed able to afford insurance but who still refuse would face increasing tax penalties.

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