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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Connector board approves new rules for minimum coverage, delays enforcement date

By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff

Nearly all adults in Massachusetts must obtain health insurance that includes coverage for prescription drugs, a state board decided today, but they will have until Jan. 1, 2009 to comply with that rule.

The unanimous vote today established draft rules for minimum coverage that every individual over age 18 is required to have under the state's landmark universal health insurance law unless they obtain a waiver. The rules will be vetted in public hearings next month and approved in final form in June.

Although the stringent new requirements do not apply immediately, all individuals who do not obtain a waiver must still buy some insurance by July 1 this year or face a tax penalty in 2008.

In the end today, even the business representative on the board of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector voted for the requirements, despite helping to organize a last-minute drive delay the rules further and eliminate the drug mandate.

"We moved a long way from where we were last week," said Richard Lord, president of Associated Industries of Massachusetts. "I'm still uncomfortable mandating that drugs be included but in the spirit of compromise, it was a reasonable alternative."

Jon Kingsdale, the board's executive director, called the vote "landmark." "All the (minimum) requirements are significant steps in setting precedents for what other states are going to be looking at," he said after the meeting.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 01:25 PM
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