- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

BOSTON (AP) - Gov. Mitt Romney today signed into law a landmark bill designed to guarantee virtually all Massachusetts residents have health insurance.

However, the governor, a Republican, vetoed a key portion of the bill - a $295-per-worker assessment on businesses that do not provide health insurance. Some critics have called that provision a tax on businesses.

The bill, intended to extend coverage to Massachusetts’ estimated 550,000 uninsured, is being touted as a national model, thrusting the state to the forefront of the national debate about how to provide near-universal health care coverage without creating a single government-controlled system.

It’s also a political coup for Mr. Romney as he weighs a potential run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008. The bill could be a centerpiece of that campaign if Mr. Romney can credibly claim pushing through a groundbreaking health care reform package.

Mr. Romney used his line-item veto power to strike eight portions of the bill, most significantly the $295 fee. Administration officials say the fee could actually discourage registration for the new health program, since some employers might consider it cheaper to pay the fee than to insure workers.

Leaders of the heavily Democratic House and Senate said they would override any changes made by the governor.

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