Starting July 1st, 2007, all Massachusetts residents age 18 and over must have health insurance. Every year, you will need to show proof of health insurance on your state income tax return. If you do not have health insurance, you will face a stiff tax penalty. For the 2007 tax year, this penalty is the loss of your personal exemption. In later years, it could be up to 50% of the amount of the cheapest health insurance plan offered through the Commonwealth Connector. If you need to buy health insurance, many new health plans are now available.

**Open Enrollment for all Plans**

Perhaps the most important thing to know if you currently need health insurance is the one-time open enrollment period. If you enroll in any individual plan between May 1, 2007 and July 31, 2007, you will not have any pre-existing condition provision or waiting period provision. If you are currently uninsured and have previously been shut out from coverage because of pre-existing condition provisions, you now have an opportunity to obtain coverage. This special open-enrollment period will only take place once, so don't miss it.

Learn More About Your Options

If you are one of the 500,000 Massachusetts residents currently shopping for health care, you can learn about some of your options here. You should also visit the www.mahealthconnector.org to learn more about special Connector plans. Click on the links below to learn about where to get coverage and information for specific groups:

Where Can I Get Coverage?

Employer Plans

Through your Employer: If you work and your employer offers health insurance, you will probably want to get your health insurance through your employer. Many employers pay part of the premium for individuals and families. Other plans let you pay your premium with pre-tax dollars. See your employer for information on the available health plans.

COBRA and Mini-COBRA: You may stay on the group health insurance offered by your employer for up to 18 months after the date your employment ends. The employer will give you forms that let you stay in the group if you pay the premium yourself. However, you may need to pay up to 102% of the premium that your former employer pays the carrier.

Directly from an Insurance Company

You can call a health insurance company directly to enroll in a plan designed for individuals, families and small groups. Many self-employed residents obtain health coverage this way. You can find a list of the companies that offer these plans at the Division of Insurance website or call 617-521-7794 to learn more.

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Choice: You can go to the Commonwealth Connector to select a "Commonwealth Choice" plan. These plans have the Connector Seal of Approval, certifying that the plans provide good value to consumers.

Commonwealth Care: If your family income is less than 300% of the federal poverty level, and you meet certain qualifications, you can to buy a "Commonwealth Care" plan from the Connector. If your family income is under the federal poverty level, you may be eligible for a plan with no premium. If your family income is between 100% and 300% of the federal poverty level, you may be eligible for discounted premium.

Call 1-877-MA-ENROLL or go to www.mahealthconnector.org to learn more about these plans.

Special Information for Senior Citizens

If you are on Medicare, this will meet the new requirement to have health insurance. For information on Medicare plans available in Massachusetts, visit the Division of Insurance website pdf format of medigap_07.pdf or the SHINE website www.mass.gov/elder.

If you need to buy health insurance, many new health plans are now available. If you enroll in an individual plan between May 1, 2007 and July 31, 2007, you will not have any pre-existing condition provision or waiting period provision. This special open-enrollment period will only take place once, so don't miss it.

Young Adults and Recent Graduates

Qualified Student Health Insurance Plans (QSHIP)

If you are enrolled as a student in a Massachusetts college or university, you can buy a special health plan directly from your school. This Qualified Student Health Insurance Plan (QSHIP) has benefits designed for students, but it is only available while you are an enrolled student.

Your Parent's Plan

Your parent or guardian may keep you on their health insurance until your 26 th birthday, or 2 years after the last year you were claimed as a dependent on your parent or guardian's federal income tax return - whichever comes first. This dependant care requirement does not apply to self-funded health plans or plans written outside of Massachusetts.

Commonwealth Connector

Young Adult Health Benefit Plan: If you are between the ages of 19 and 26, and you don't have access to health insurance subsidized by your employer, you may be able to join a Young Adult Health Benefit Plan. Call 1-877-MA-ENROLL or go to www.mahealthconnector.org to learn more about these plans.

Financial Assistance

MassHealth

If your income is below the MassHealth eligibility threshold or are disabled, you may qualify for MassHealth. Call 1-800-841-2900 for more information and an application.

Medical Security Plan

If you are receiving unemployment compensation, you may qualify for the Medical Security Plan, a state subsidized health insurance plan for people who are receiving unemployment benefits. Call 1-800-914-4455 for more information.

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Care: If your family income is less than 300% of the federal poverty level, and you meet certain qualifications, you can buy a "Commonwealth Care" plan from the Connector. If your family income is under the federal poverty level, you may be eligible for a plan with no premium. If your family income is between 100% and 300% of the federal poverty level, you may be eligible for discounted premium.