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People who get state-subsidized health care won't have to pay their premiums this year if they can show they're under financial pressure from helping Haiti earthquake victims.
The state is waiving the premiums to give financial relief to low-income residents who are sending money to relatives and friends affected by the earthquake in Haiti.
People who travel frequently to Haiti to help out could also get their premiums waived. And if people drop their state-subsidized insurance because providing financial help to earthquake victims has left them cash-strapped, the tax penalty for not having health insurance will also be waived.
The waivers apply to people who receive health insurance through the state's Commonwealth Care program, which provides no-cost or low-cost health insurance to people who are income-eligible.
The plan was approved Thursday by the board of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority, which oversees the state's health reform efforts, and proposed by board member Celia Wcislo.
"Many folks are getting calls from their families saying, 'Can you send any money so we could buy bricks to rebuild a house? Because we're living outside,' " Wcislo said. "So the hardship waiver could be applied to people in this really horrible situation," added Wcislo, who is assistant director of the Massachusetts division of 1199 SEIU, a union for health care workers.
Connector officials aren't sure how many people could potentially benefit from the waiver.
They have not yet decided when the waiver will go into effect and whether it will apply retroactively to the date of the Jan. 12 earthquake; those details and others still need to be hammered out.
This program aired on February 11, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.
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