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Bay State To Hike Penalties For Uninsured

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Massachusetts residents who don’t have acceptable health coverage this year could face much higher penalties than in 2007, state officials warn.

Officials at the Massachusetts Department of Revenue have proposed setting the penalty scale at half of the lowest cost health insurance plan available for residents in a particular income range through the state Health Connector program.

Someone who earns more than $30,636, or 3 times the federal poverty level, could face penalties of $76 for each month they remain uninsured, or $912 per year.

Lower-income people would face lesser fines or no penalties at all and would be entitled to subsidized coverage, officials say.

The new penalties would accrue each month that an individual lacks health insurance in 2008 and will be due as part of the tax-filing process for the year, officials say.

The maximum 2007 penalty was the loss of the personal exemption, which was worth just $219 on an individual’s state tax return.

The new penalties are authorized under the state health care reform law enacted in 2006, which requires all adults in the state to be covered by health care insurance, officials say.

Since the enactment, of the law, about 300,000 residents, or about half of the residents who were uninsured in 2006, have obtained new health coverage, officials estimate.

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules Feb.4 at the State House in Boston.