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Massachusetts Makes Health Insurance Mandatory

Massachusetts is the first state to require its residents to secure health insurance, a plan designed to get as close as practically possible to statewide universal health care. Presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney originally introduced the idea in 2004.

Effective July 1, 2007, the law, which uses federal and state tax dollars, is aimed at making health insurance affordable to all residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including low-income populations. Those who fall below the federal poverty line may be eligible for health care at no cost. A Health Disparities Council has been created to monitor and reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

The law's "Individual Mandate" provision underscores the state's requirement that each resident make it his or her personal responsibility to secure health care. Those who choose not to abide by the law will be subject to penalty. State income tax forms in 2008 will be used to verify insurance coverage.

Employers who do not offer health coverage to their employees will be subject to fees imposed by the state.

The law has its critics. There are questions about how costs will be controlled, considering that the state will not regulate the increase of premiums.

Dr. Judy Ann Bigby, the state's secretary of Health and Human Services, explains the legislation and how it's being enforced.

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