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Massachusetts Begins Offering Health Insurance to the Poor

October 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

BOSTON — Massachusetts began signing up its poorest residents for low-cost health insurance Monday, the beginning step in the state's goal to be the first to require all citizens to have health insurance.

"This is a historic day for us," said Gov. Mitt Romney, who signed the state's new health care law in April. "It's real today."

Madeline Rhenisch, 56, will be among about 62,000 of the state's poorest residents, living at or below the federal poverty line of about $9,800 a year, offered the program. The state will pay her premiums and she will be responsible for just nominal co-pays.

The unemployed Boston woman said she has spent the money she saved for retirement on doctor's visits.

"I've worked hard all my life. I've paid benefits all my life. I never wanted to be a burden on my family or friends," said Rhenisch, who has been without health insurance for eight years. "It's been very embarrassing to have to beg and scratch."

This summer, the federal government gave the state its approval for a first-in-the-nation program that will require everyone 18 and older to carry health insurance. The state's universal health insurance program will use a combination of subsidies and penalties to make coverage more affordable and to encourage people to buy it.

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