Gov. Mitt Romney's administration, which recently launched an initiative to help all residents obtain health insurance, is changing the rules for a "free care" program that advocates say will make it harder for the uninsured to get healthcare.
The administration has proposed that effective Oct. 1, hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents would have to pay $3 to $5 copayments toward their medical care, a move some say will scare off poor residents, the Boston Globe reported. Also, some patients who get services through the state's free-care program but have other options for coverage would be excluded, and prescription drug coverage for all uninsured would be restricted.
Administration officials said the moves are designed to ensure that the free-care program is not more attractive than MassHealth, the state's Medicaid insurance program for low-income patients. The state and federal governments share costs for MassHealth, whereas financing of the free-care program comes from taxpayers, hospitals and health insurers. The cost this year is $502 million.
Observers, however, say the new proposal runs counter to Romney's announced goal last month to provide coverage to the half-million residents without health insurance.
"This is going to make it harder for people without means to get necessary medical services," said John McDonough, executive director of advocacy group Health Care for All.