Penalties for Massachusetts residents who can afford health insurance but do not purchase it in 2008 could quadruple compared with the maximum penalty in 2007, according to draft regulations released by the Department of Revenue yesterday.
The maximum penalty for those who flout the law and do not buy health insurance would be $912 a year, compared to $219 in 2007.
The higher penalty is intended to get those who are on the fence to buy health insurance. For those wavering, it could make more sense to pay for insurance than to pay the penalty.
The proposed penalties also drive home the full impact of the health reform law's personal mandate principle. This approach makes buying health insurance a responsibility of all residents, similar to the way drivers are required to purchase auto insurance. The penalty was enacted to spur residents to purchase insurance rather than rely on the care hospitals are still required to provide to patients regardless of coverage or ability to pay.
"We have worked hard to craft these penalties in a manner that is straightforward and easy to understand," said revenue commissioner Henry Dormitzer in a statement. "We hope they will encourage people who can afford health insurance to buy it."