Christians are cautiously optimistic about a Massachusetts health coverage plan that some are calling a model for other states. On April 12, Gov. Mitt Romney signed legislation making medical insurance accessible to all state residents, with one catch: The bill also makes insurance mandatory. Beginning in July 2007, Massachusetts adults without health insurance will be subject to fines, just like drivers who fail to purchase auto insurance.

Touted as the first market-based reform of a state's health-care system, the bill strives to fulfill two seemingly divergent goals: providing insurance for those who can't afford it while also eliminating nonpaying freeloaders.

Massachusetts's bill extends coverage to about 500,000 uninsured. Eligible residents can purchase subsidized plans with sliding-scale premiums and no deductibles. Other uninsured residents will be enrolled in Medicaid or directed to low-premium policies that sometimes carry high deductibles.

The state will fund the subsidies without raising taxes by redirecting part of the $1 billion it currently spends on uninsured care.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, lauded the bill as an innovative attempt, at least, to address an important moral and human-rights issue.

"The Bible tells us to do unto others as we would have others do unto us. If I were uninsured, I would want others to come to my aid and demand solutions," said Land, who sits on the interfaith advisory board of Cover the Uninsured Week, an annual event that advocates for improving health care nationwide. "With this country's economic prosperity, we can and should find ways to provide health care for everyone."

According to the website for Cover ...

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