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04/05/06 PLAN Praises MA Health Plan for Low-Income Coverage but Condemns Individual Mandate

PLAN Praises MA Health Plan for Low-Income Coverage but Condemns Individual Mandate Co-chairs Doherty and Sirota condemn Gov. Romney for placing cost burden on middle class families
Helena, MT -- Today, the Progressive Legislative Action Network (PLAN) praised aspects of the comprehensive health care law in Massachusetts, but emphasized that the new policy puts too much of the burden on families and too little responsibility on large, wealthy employers refusing to provide health care for their employees. "Extending health care coverage to 500,000 uninsured residents and increasing the subsidies for lower-income families is a wonderful advance in policy," said Steve Doherty, PLAN's Co-Chair. "But we believe that, as currently structured, the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is an unfair burden on struggling working and middle class families. Individuals should not be facing tax penalties of up to $1000 to enforce those mandates, even as irresponsible businesses that fail to provide health insurance are required to pay only $295 per employee." The Massachusetts plan will provide free health insurance to all families below the poverty line, and provide partial subsidies to those making between 100% and 300% of the poverty level to purchase health insurance. Starting in 2008, all individuals will be mandated by law to purchase insurance -- with penalties equal to half the cost of health insurance if they fail to do so. While the state House initially proposed that businesses not currently providing health insurance would pay a fee equivalent to 5-7% of their payrolls for the program, that amount was reduced to just $295 per employee during negotiations with the state Senate. PLAN expressed appreciation that the Massachusetts legislature resisted some of the more extreme measures proposed by Governor Mitt Romney and looks forward to the legislature working in the future to hold employers failing to provide health insurance responsible for more of the costs of the program. PLAN also criticized Governor Romney for pushing the individual mandate and disparaging efforts in other states seeking a single payer approach to providing comprehensive health coverage. "On the same day Massachusetts legislators made this major health care step a reality, Gov. Romney's comments about single-payer health care show that he's far more interested in his future presidential ambitions and in appeasing the ultra-conservative base than moving America's health care debate forward," said David Sirota, PLAN's Co-Chair. "The governor would be well-advised to keep his right-wing extremism to himself -- not disparage other efforts to expand health care in other states." To speak with either Steve Doherty or David Sirota -- or one of PLAN's policy experts -- please contact Matt Singer at msinger@progressivestates.org or 406-544-0211. The Progressive Legislative Action Network's mission is to drive public policy debates and change the political landscape in the United States by focusing on attainable and progressive state level actions.