BOSTON (AP) -- Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday that would make Massachusetts the first state to require that all of its citizens have some form of health insurance.
The plan -- hailed as a national model and approved just 24 hours after the final details were released -- would dramatically expand access to health care during the next three years.
If all goes as the supporters hope, those already insured will see a modest drop in their premiums, lower-income residents will be offered new, more-affordable plans and subsidies to help them pay for coverage, and those who can afford insurance but refuse will face increasing tax penalties until they obtain coverage.
The House approved the bill on a 154-2 vote. The Senate endorsed it 37-0.
A final procedural vote is needed in both chambers before the bill can head to the desk of Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2008. Romney has expressed support for the measure but has not said whether he will sign it.
"It's only fitting that Massachusetts would set forward and produce the most comprehensive, all-encompassing health-care reform bill in the country," said House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, a Democrat. "Do we know whether this is perfect or not? No, because it's never been done before."