Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a bill yesterday that would make Massachusetts the first state to require that all citizens have some form of health insurance. The plan -- hailed as a national model and approved just 24 hours after the final details were released -- would dramatically expand access to healthcare over the next three years.
If all goes as the supporters hope, those already insured will see a modest drop in their premiums; lower-income residents will be offered new, more affordable plans and subsidies; and those who can afford insurance but refuse will face increasing tax penalties.
Here is a brief explanation of the legislation:
THE BILL: The healthcare bill is designed to provide insurance to nearly all the state's estimated 500,000 uninsured residents.
THE POOREST: Single adults making less than $9,500 a year will have access to health coverage with no premiums or deductibles.
THE LOW-INCOME: Those living at up to 300 percent of the poverty level, about $48,000 for a family of three, will be able to get health coverage on a sliding scale with no deductibles.
THE PENALTY: Individuals able but unwilling to purchase healthcare could face fines of more than $1,000 a year.