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Press Release - Romney Unveils First New Healthcare Reform Product

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Lowest income residents now eligible to receive high quality care

Governor Mitt Romney today officially launched Commonwealth Care, an innovative health insurance product that will allow thousands of uninsured Massachusetts residents to purchase private health insurance products at affordable rates. Commonwealth Care is a key component of the state's landmark healthcare reform law approved by the Governor in April.

"We are now on the road to getting everyone health insurance in Massachusetts," said Governor Romney. "A lot of folks worked very hard to get us there - government leaders, advocates and dozens of staff at MassHealth and the Commonwealth Connector - and they should be proud that Massachusetts is leading the way. Today, we celebrate a great beginning."

Effective today, an estimated 50,000 residents with incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($9,800 for an individual) who formerly used the uncompensated care pool to receive care are now eligible to apply for Commonwealth Care. The products will allow enrollees to receive inpatient hospital services, outpatient services and preventive care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse services, vision services and dental services, including preventive and restorative procedures.

Governor Romney announced the new insurance product at the Neponset Health Center in Dorchester and accepted the first application from Madeline Rhenisch, a 56-year-old Brighton resident. With no insurance for most of the past eight years, she has been paying nearly $3,000 annually out-of-pocket for her prescriptions and doctors' visits. If determined to be eligible, Rhenisch will receive a Commonwealth Care policy that has neither premiums nor deductibles with very modest co-payments.

"I am so grateful and proud I live in Massachusetts which has taken this step and made this hope real for me and the thousands of other people who are struggling to manage their health," said Rhenisch.

By the end of January of 2007, the Connector will notify applicants in the 100 FPL group if they have been approved for coverage. Applicants will then have 14 days to select a plan offered by Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, Fallon Community Health Plan, Neighborhood Health Plan or Network Health. Those who do not select a specific plan automatically be assigned one but will have 60 days to make a change.

"Commonwealth Care will help us to spend our healthcare dollars wisely while dramatically expanding care to thousands of citizens who were without insurance," said Commonwealth Connector Executive Director Jon Kingsdale.

Another 10,000 individuals with similar incomes who have not used the uncompensated care pool during the past year may also be eligible. In the coming months, an extensive effort will be made to reach this population and enroll them in coverage.

Individuals who believe they are part of this group may call a Commonwealth Care customer service representative toll-free Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-877-MA-ENROLL (1-877-623-6765). The TTY number for people with partial or total hearing loss is 1-877-623-7773.

Applications are also available through many community-based organizations, including hospitals and community health centers. These organizations' staffs have been trained to help people file applications online through the Commonwealth's Virtual Gateway, an online application portal for the state's health and human services programs.

On Jan. 1, 2007, the Connector will begin enrolling the estimated 150,000 residents with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($29,400). These individuals will be eligible to apply for premium assistance toward the purchase of private health insurance.

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