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North Reading Man Sues State Over Health Insurance Costs

NORTH READING (CBS) - It's a catch 22: pay for health insurance or pay a hefty fine. A North Reading man has argued he can't afford either, so he's suing the state.

Michael Merlina is not a lawyer: he's a glass guy. But, Merlina is suing the state, saying he can't afford health insurance or the fine for not having it.

"They fined me $2,000 in 2009 because I was unable to provide health care for me and my wife," said Merlina.

Merlina's insurance disappeared with his wife's job in 2009. His family's small business doesn't provide it.

WBZ-TV's Peg Rusconi reports

Health care would cost them $425 per month through the state's Health Insurance Connector. The connector's attorney said based on Merlina's $70,000 adjusted gross income, they can afford it.

"If you look at the regulations and how one could overcome the presumption of affordability, they talk about things like sudden homelessness, the shutoff of essential services," said the attorney.

The judge noted Merlina's expenses outweigh his income.

"There are things I could cut, but the problem is there aren't enough things that I can cut to make up that $425," said Merlina.

Neither side can claim victory yet. The hearing was quick, but the judge is taking some time to think about the case and promised a ruling soon.

The state's attorney said the Connector's affordability tables are adjusted every year. She said under the conditions written by the legislature, a person has to prove paying for health insurance would deprive them of basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

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