Mass. man sues over health insurance law

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August 10, 2010, 7:48 pm
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(NECN: Brad Puffer) - A Massachusetts man who doesn't have health insurance is now suing the state. He says he can't afford insurance or pay the fine for not having it, and feels like he's being singled out.

Mike Merlina installs glass for a family owned business on the North Shore. With just seven employees, the company does not offer health insurance. He used to have insurance through his wife. But last year she lost her job. Now Merlina faces a two-thousand dollar fine from the state.

"It's not like I am against health insurance it's just I am against it being forced on me and then penalizing me for not be able to afford it."

Merlina appealed the fine.  It was denied.  So Merlina is taking his appeal to the next step, acting as his own lawyer, filing this lawsuit against the state in Middlesex Superior Court.

"What are my options, just roll over and pay the fine which I can't afford and I don't think is right. I can hire a lawyer which will probably exceed the penalty in the first place or I can do what I am doing."

Mike Merlina is certainly not alone in this past year more ethan 2,500 people appealed the fine for not carrying health insurance.

As part of his appeal, Merlina outlines his monthly expenses include his mortgage, utilities, car payments and other expenses that total more than his only income after taxes.  He says he cannot possibly afford more than 400-a month for the least expensive health care plan.

"I don't live an extensive lifestyle. If you can't afford something you can't buy it it's very simple."

In response, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Health Connector said "That we have approved approximately one-half of the appeals presented to us demonstrates the Health Connector's willingness to consider each case on its merits. We are ever-mindful that healthcare reform is about insuring people, not unnecessarily penalizing them."

"It's me, it's my health it's my body. I'll sign a waver saying the stat's not responsible for me I don't see why that's unfair."

The question remains, who is responsible if Merlina gets sick or injured. It's one reason why Massachusetts is trying to insure as many residents as possible four years after the landmark health care reform bill passed.

Tags: health insurance, Brad Puffer, Mike Merlina
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