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Massachusetts Commonwealth Care enrollment seen topping projections


BOSTON—A Massachusetts program that subsidizes health insurance premiums for low-income uninsured state residents is on track to exceed earlier enrollment projections, state officials said last week.

As of April 1, nearly 63,000 people had enrolled in Commonwealth Care, which is available to state residents whose annual incomes are less than 300% of the federal poverty level.

When the program--authorized by the state's 2006 universal health care law--began Oct. 1, 2006, state officials thought that about half of the 140,000 Massachusetts residents eligible for coverage would sign up by July 1 of this year.

Based on recent enrollment trends, state officials project that July 1 enrollment goal of 70,000 should be surpassed. State residents can choose from among health plans offered by several managed care organizations.

"The fact that we are on track to surpass our projections is indicative of the need for this program, the high level of benefits it offers, strong outreach and collaboration with many partners who have helped to simplify the enrollment process," said Jon Kingsdale, executive director in Boston of the Connector Authority, which runs Commonwealth Care.

Commonwealth Care is a key component of the 2006 law, which is intended to help the state achieve near-universal health care coverage within a few years. In passing the measure, lawmakers said they believed it would be more cost-effective to subsidize health insurance premiums for previously uninsured low-income state residents than to reimburse hospitals for providing care--often in expensive emergency room settings--to those without coverage.

Commonwealth Care is available to those individuals age 18 and older with a family income no greater than $30,630 a year and who previously lacked health insurance coverage.

Premiums paid by enrollees depend on income and the health plan in which they enroll with no premiums paid by those earning less than $10,210 a year. For those earning more than $10,210 but less than $30,630, monthly premiums in the lowest priced plan range from $18 to $106. The average monthly premium is $45.