The Massachusetts legislature voted to accept a bill that makes it possible for all of its citizens to obtain health insurance and also proposes an increase in Medicaid coverage, including restoring dental and vision services for adults, which was cut in 2002.

“The mandate may have a negative impact on some of our members if they don’t already purchase health insurance for their employees,” says Karen Rafeld, assistant executive director and senior policy advisor for The Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS). “We don’t know the impact, however, since we aren’t sure how many members have more than 11 employees and who don’t already offer coverage.”

If the bill is signed by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, all state residents will be required to have health insurance by 2007. The bill passed 154 to 2 in the House and 37 to 0 in the Senate.

For dentists, the new law would not only affect patients’ access to care, but also dentists’ status as small business owners: practices with 11 or more employees who don’t already pay health insurance premiums will be expected to pay a maximum of $295 per employee each year to the state to help fund the state-offered plans.