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Mass. residents without health insurance to face higher penalty in 2012

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BOSTON—Massachusetts residents who do not have health insurance will face a higher financial penalty in 2012 under newly finalized rules.

Under the guidelines—unchanged from previous rules proposed by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue—the maximum penalty this year for those with incomes that exceed 300% of the federal poverty level will be $105 for each month that an individual is not covered by health insurance, or $1,260 a year.

In 2011, the maximum penalty for noncompliance was $101 a month, up to a maximum of $1,212 a year.

However, penalties for those with incomes that are less than 300% of the federal poverty level will be unchanged from 2011. Depending on their income, they will range from $19 to $58 a month.

Penalties, though, do not apply for individuals whose incomes are less than 150% of the federal poverty level, which is $16,344 for an individual and $33,528 for a family of four. Those individuals are eligible for free health insurance coverage, with premiums paid by the state.

Imposing penalties on those without health insurance is a key part of the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law, with the goal of moving the state very close to universal coverage.

Last September, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that at 5%—averaged over 2009 and 2010—Massachusetts had the lowest uninsured rate of any U.S. state.