STEVE LeBLANC
Associated Press
June 3, 2008

BOSTON (AP) — Nearly 100,000 Massachusetts taxpayers have been fined for failing to obtain health insurance, even as a major survey concludes the effort to create near-universal coverage in the state is meeting key goals.

Five percent of taxpayers failed to obtain health coverage last year, and more than half of those — about 97,000 — were forced to forfeit their personal exemption — worth $219 — after it was determined they could have afforded health care.

Two percent of taxpayers — about 62,000 — were found not to earn enough for health care, avoiding fines. Under the landmark law, taxpayers must show they are insured or face penalties. The numbers were based on a review of 86 percent of expected tax filers for 2007.

Gov. Deval Patrick said the fact that 95 percent of filers were insured shows the 2006 law, which mandates health care for nearly all residents, is making progress.

“We continue to put one foot in front of the other,” Patrick said Monday.

A total of $9.7 million in fines was deposited into a trust fund to help cover the cost of the law. Monthly penalties for those who can afford health care but refuse will jump and could total as much as $912 for individuals by December.

On Tuesday, researchers released the first major survey of the health care law.

The uninsurance rate for Massachusetts adults dropped by more than half and residents were paying less in out-of-pocket health expenses, according to the report in the journal Health Affairs, which also found that low-income adults were more likely to have regular checkups and dental visits since the law took effect.

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