By KATHLEEN BITETTI
Greetings! I have decided to dedicated this column to breaking news, Action Need, and Save the Dates announcements.
There are two important warnings and two updates for those Massachusetts Residents who do not have health insurance. Make sure you familiarize yourself with The Guide for Artists Navigating Health Care Reform!
The street Musicians and performer need everyone’s support! So please act.
And finally – mark your calendars for two great free events in November!!
TWO HEALTH CARE REFORM WARNINGS
1) The Individual Mandate and You.
One key component of the Health Care Reform Law is the “individual mandate.” Beginning on July 1, 2007, Massachusetts residents age 18 and older are required to have health insurance that is deemed affordable to them at their income level or they risk being fiscally penalized on their personal state income taxes. Those not in compliance with the mandate risk losing their personal exemption for their 2007 State Income taxes (estimated at around $200 for an individual). For the 2008 tax year and beyond, those not in compliance with the individual mandate may be assessed a fine (half the cost of the lowest-cost yearly health care plan deemed available to them). One key thing to keep in mind is that embedded in the law is that the deadline for PROOF of health insurance is in actuality December 31st, 2007. As long as you have insurance by that date and can PROVE it, you will not be penalized on your taxes by DOR. Please note that there is a waiver/appeals process from the mandate, which was recently finalized. The Department of Revenue (DOR) will be policing this part of the law. Even those who are insured will have to prove that they have insurance. Some people may be exempt from the Individual Mandate if there is no health insurance deemed affordable to them at their income level. I highly recommend that you read the individual mandate section on healthcareforartists.org. That section has links to online tools to see if you are exempt from the Mandate based on your income level.
However, those not exempt from the mandate, will to have proof of health insurance by December 31st, and to be able to do so you need to be enrolled and have paid your first month’s premium by November 15th 2007. This holds true for state subsidized health plans/programs (Commonwealth Care, MassHealth) and most private insurance plans – so don’t wait!! (Most plans start coverage the first of the month).
2) I strongly recommend that artists who have hard to determine income DO NOT enroll or sign up for any program/health insurance plan via the Connector’s website or phone lines. Only use the Connector as a way to research your options. This is very important. It is best if you talk to a seasoned enrollment specialist from Health Care For All’s Help Line or an enrollment councilor from a Community Health Center, a hospital, or a health care advocacy organization to see if you are first eligible for a subsidized health plan and if you find out that you are not eligible THEN use the Connector to enroll in a non subsidized health plan (i.e. Commonwealth Choice plans). Until the issues the Artists Foundation has identified with the Connector’s enrollment processes are corrected – it is best to follow this path.
– Health Care For All’s Help Line: 1-800-272-4232 (this help line is for individuals only)
– The Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (Directory):
– The Massachusetts Hospital Association (Directory):
IMPORTANT HEALTH CARE REFORM CHANGES
1) Many low income and lower income uninsured people had their health care paid for by what was called the Free Care Pool. There have been changes. It is now called the Health Safety Net (HSN) and there are new eligibility requirements. Please see the Health Safety Net section.
2) Young Adult Plans (YAP) are now available to those 18-26 years old (before the age eligibility was 19-26 years old). Remember to check to see what these plans cover and what their annual benefit caps are before you purchase them. See health care optionssection.
ALERT AND ACTION NEEDED
Street Artists need support!!!
Several street artists recently met to discuss MBTA-Radio issue. The result is the petition below. Folks who want to help with T-Radio issue can contact Community Arts Advocates website. There will be an open public meeting to develop committees and action plans in the coming weeks. Location and time not yet determined.
STOP T-RADIO PETITION
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) on October 10th started broadcasting continuous radio advertisements and music at South Station, North Station and Airport Station with a plan to expand the continuous radio broadcast system-wide after Thanksgiving. The radio broadcast will adversely monopolize this historic First Amendment public space:
1. Curtail and Interfere with Conversations of all MBTA patrons
2. Curtail and Interfere with Reading of all MBTA patrons
3. Target ads to all School Children who use the MBTA
4. Curtail and Eliminate Subway Performances
We, the undersigned, support the diversity of expression of patrons and artists in the subway. We petition Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Board of Directors to stop the T-Radio broadcast. Sign the petition online.
TWO “SAVE THE DATES”
November 8, 2007
The First Annual Artists Under the Dome Event
10am to 3pm
Massachusetts State House’s Great Hall
A Free Event for Massachusetts Artists Working in all Disciplines — Be there!
November 10, 2007
Free Artists & Entrepreneurship Conference
9:30am to 4:30pm
Boston Public Library