Massachusetts residents and businesses would have an additional 18 months to upgrade their health insurance to meet the more stringent coverage levels required under the states new universal healthcare law, according to preliminary regulations approved Tuesday.
Consumers, employers and insurers would have until January 2009, instead of the original deadline of July 1, 2007, to adopt the states new minimum coverage standards, which include a broad array of features such as prescription-drug and mental-health benefits. But residents would still need to show proof of some kind of health insurance by July 1 or face tax penalties next year. While virtually any licensed health plan would count for the July 1 deadline, by January 2009 only those plans that meet the states new basic requirements would be considered adequate to avoid future tax penalties. Businesses had pushed for a two-year extension, saying they needed more time to comply with the law.
Massachusetts officials also voted this week to require prescription-drug coverage to be part of the states minimum insurance standards over the objections of some employers, who said pharmacy benefits put too much of a financial burden on businesses. All regulations approved Tuesday now face a public comment period, with a final vote scheduled for June. -- by Laura B. Benko