At the legislature’s request, the Connector board is looking at ways to cover 30-to-40,000 low income residents many of whom can't afford their share of employer sponsored health insurance. Anyone who is offered insurance at work, and doesn't take it, is not eligible for Commonwealth Care. If the state lifts that restriction, those 40,000 plus roughly 670,000 more low income employees (most of whom currently buy into their company plan) and their children could switch to the cheaper state subsidized plan. Connector board chair Leslie Kirwan says that’s big concern.

That said, there’s clearly a sentiment that low income workers who may not be able to afford their employer sponsored insurance are a group that we should keep in mind for Commonwealth Care if we can figure out a way to do it responsibly.

But some Connector board members say it is not responsible to consider lifting limits on who qualifies for subsidized insurance right now.

Associated Industries of Massachusetts President Rick Lord says the latest estimates show Commonwealth Care running well over budget.

I don’t think we’re at a point where we can give serious consideration to expanding the Commonwealth Care program, because there’s been great concern that enrollment is going to continue to increase and create serious budget problems for the state.

The board did not take any action after a presentation yesterday. Staff members stressed that the projections are based on loose estimates that have a number of variables. Board members had several suggestions about what to do next: let very low income employees in, create an Individual waiver or set up a pilot to study possible remedies. Health Care for All Policy Director Brian Rosman says the state is already funding health care for many employees who can't afford their share of insurance premiums.

They’re using emergency room care a lot of times which is the most expensive way to find care. So there ought to be some way, either by helping them get on their employers plan or allowing them to get Commonwealth Care with their employer contributing, to find them health care.

The Connector plans more discussion on this topic and other long range issues at the next meeting, June 12th.

This program aired on May 8, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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Martha Bebinger Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.



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