November 2014

November 25, 2014

We're thankful for you!

This week, Health Care For All (HCFA) is especially thankful for you, our supporters and friends. You make it possible for us to provide direct services, policy expertise, education and advocacy for health care consumers across Massachusetts.

HCFA is able to do the work we do because of your continuing generosity.

Please consider a holiday contribution today.

Sincerely,

The Staff and Board of Health Care For All

To make a tax-deductible donation:

  • Click here to make an online donation
  • Mail a gift to: Health Care For All, One Federal Street, Boston, MA 02110  Attn: Development

 

Click. Shop. Support HCFA, through iGIVE.comYou can support Health Care For All on Cyber Monday by shopping online at over 1,500 stores like Amazon, Crate&Barrel, and Toys R Us.  Join Igive.com and select Health Care For All as your charity of choice and a percentage of your purchase will be donated to HCFA.

Monthly Donation CalendarSupport HCFA monthly by allocating an ongoing donation. Giving a specific amount each month has great impact on our work. Email adettorre@hcfama.org to start the process.

 

Workplace GivingJoin your employee giving program or encourage your company to become part of one. HCFA is a part of Community Works, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Employees Charitable Campaign (COMECC # 111147) and the City of Boston Employees Charitable Campaign (COBECC # 2015).

 

Gifts of TributeWhat better way to celebrate family and friends than to give a gift to HCFA in their honor or memory? Click here to make a donation or call 617-275-2936 to make a pledge!

 

Matching Gifts Double Your DonationMany corporations provide a 1:1 matching gift for their employees who donate to nonprofits. Please contact your Human Resources department today.

 

November 24, 2014

The state released its first weekly Open Enrollment dashboard today, showing enrollment activity for the Health Connector and MassHealth. 

Connector Weekly dashboard report 11-24-14

The complicated chart above shows both were enrollees are coming from, and where they are going to. Notice that the bars are not to scale.

The programs named on the left side show where the those determined eligible for coverage are going. So, after the first week, 23,792 people have been determined eligible for MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program. Another 12,584 people have been determined eligible for ConnectorCare, the Connector's private coverage subsidy program that includes both federal tax credits and cost sharing reductions along with additional state assistance.

The color of the bar shows where the people are coming from. Those in blue are now in the Temporary MassHealth program, which was set up to accommodate people applying coverage who could not use last year's website. The numbers in pink are currently in the extended Commonwealth Care program, set up under the state's 2006 reform law. The people noted in green are either entirely new to the system (such as recently moved to the state), or are in a regular MassHealth Medicaid program. These numbers will be more delineated in future reports.

The report also shows separately the smaller number of people who are actually enrolled. For those with a premium, this requires choosing a plan and paying the first month's premium. So while almost 52,000 people have been determined eligible (as shown above), so far almost 25,000 have fully enrolled.

Outreach campaign updateThe report also included data on the outreach campaign. The 31,578 doors knocked noted in the chart at right from the report reflects the work of HCFA in the first week. We are working directly and with partners in targeted regions to spread the word about the open enrollment. We're on target to hit some 200,000 doors by the end of open enrollment.

                                            - Brian Rosman

November 21, 2014

We were so pleased to learn today that incoming Governor Charlie Baker has selected Marylou Sudders to be his Secretary of Health and Human Services (for details, see this State House News Service story).

Marylou and HCFA go back a long way, through our work together on children's health for over a decade, her 7-year service as Commissioner of Mental Health from 1996-2003, and our more recent work with her as a member of the Health Policy Commission. She brings enormous experience with state care systems, a very expansive empathy for the people the EOHHS agencies serve, and an openness to listen and learn from everyone.

We look forward to extensive, meaningful collaboration on building a health care system that reaches everyone in Massachusetts with high-quality, affordable care, with a strong focus on prevention, population health, and ending disparities.

WBUR posted an insightful interview with her today. You can read it here, or listen below:

 

    - Brian Rosman

November 19, 2014

Chart showing total MassHealth budget and net cost to state

On a day when the Governor announced over $50 million in MassHealth Medicaid cuts (details here), the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) and the Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute (MMPI), released a new budget brief, Understanding the Actual Cost of MassHealth to the State. The brief details the true “net” cost of MassHealth to the state after accounting for federal reimbursement.

The main takeaway: Since MassHealth is jointly funded by the state and federal governments, much of the program is actually paid for by the federal government.

Key points:

  • This year, MassHealth will provide health insurance coverage for 1.7 million low and moderate-income Massachusetts residents – roughly 25% of the state population, resulting in MassHealth taking up a large portion of the state budget…before taking into account federal funding.
  • The FY2015 state budget includes $14.7 billion for MassHealth and health reform programs – 37% of the state budget. Federal revenue from these programs is projected to be $7.7 billion in FY2015, reducing the net cost of MassHealth and health reform to just 23% of the state's budget dollars.

Because of the federal government picking up at least half of the cost of the program, today's budget cuts must reduce services in dollar terms at least twice as much as they need be in order to get the needed savings. In other words, the state needs to eliminate $100 of health care spending to save the state budget $50. This makes cuts in MassHealth particularly inefficient, or particularly painful.

As usual, MassBudget and MMPI help to paint a more complete picture of the MassHealth program – who it serves, how it works, and how much it really costs.

  - Suzanne Curry

November 19, 2014

[News on an important new survey released by our friends at the Massachusetts chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness]

 

NAMI Massachusetts press release

On November 18, 2014, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Massachusetts chapter (NAMI Mass) held joint news conferences in Boston and Agawam, releasing the results of its statewide survey on mental health attitudes as well as a five-point proposed plan for making mental health a priority of the Baker administration’s first 100 days.

NAMI Mass commissioned Marttila Strategies to conduct the survey of 800 Massachusetts voters earlier this year. This was the first statewide survey on mental health attitudes conducted in several years and offered insight into an issue that is rarely polled, even though 54 percent of voters say someone in their family currently has or has had a mental illness.  The survey also revealed that 82 percent do not believe people with mental illnesses receive the treatment they need.

“We are encouraged that so many Massachusetts voters recognize the seriousness of this issue,” said Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director of NAMI Mass. “The survey demonstrates the need for Governor-elect Baker to exercise strong, innovative leadership. Massachusetts unfortunately is way behind in caring for the approximately 1.3 million residents who have – or will have – mental illness.” 

The entire policy plan and survey results can be downloaded at www.namimass.org/survey.

November 18, 2014

The Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Lowell is one of HCFA's foremost partners in our campaign to reach 200,000 households in Massachusetts with information about this year's health coverage open enrollment.

They tweeted this out earlier today:

Tweet: The @CMAALowell's team reached 700 community members for @HCFA campaign this Sunday.

November 17, 2014

Daily Enrollment Dashboard for 11-17-14

The Health Connector, EOHHS and MassHealth just released their first "Daily Dashboard" (click to download),  showing the results from this past weekend's start of open enrollment.

It works - the results are very positive, with almost 12,000 people being determined eligible over the weekend.

HCFA's canvassing operation hit some 6,600 doors over the weekend, exceeding our goal.

Here's highlights from the state's release that accompanied the dashboard, including the HCFA statement towards the end:

NEARLY 12,000 INDIVIDUALS & FAMILIES SUCESSFULLY DETERMINED ELIGIBLE FOR ACA HEALTH INSURANCE VIA MAHEALTHCONNECTOR.ORG
4,948 immediately enrolled in MassHealth coverage, 6,972 qualify for Health Connector plans, set to take next steps of shopping, enrolling

 

BOSTON – Monday, November 17, 2014 – In the first two full days of Open Enrollment 2015, the new Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange (“MA HIX”) website successfully determined 11,920 individuals and families eligible for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance.

Over the weekend, the revamped Exchange attracted a total of 57,208 visitors and enrolled 4,948 into immediate ACA-compliant MassHealth coverage in real-time, a function last year’s website was never able to complete. The remaining 6,972 individuals and families were successfully determined eligible for Health Connector insurance plans. They are now able to take the next steps of shopping for quality, affordable insurance, enrolling in the plans of their choice and paying their first-month premiums, all online in a seamless end-to-end process. 3,600 individuals and families have already selected their plans and 137 have paid their first bill, five weeks in advance of the Dec. 23 deadline to take action for Jan. 1, 2015 coverage.

“The website was stable, reliable and it did exactly what we built it to do: serve as a tool to connect Massachusetts residents to the health and economic benefits of ACA coverage,” said Maydad Cohen, the Governor’s Special Assistant for Project Delivery. “Now it’s up to us to build on the strong performance of the first two days, make sure every consumer using the site or calling the call centers enjoys the smoothest experience possible and finish critical IT upgrades scheduled for December.”

Cohen made his remarks while releasing the MA HIX project’s first daily dashboard measuring project performance. The dashboards – which going forward will capture daily statistics Tuesday-Friday and weekly data every Monday – are consistent with Governor Patrick and Cohen’s commitment to transparency, a project hallmark ever since the Governor put a single person in charge of the website turnaround and brought in new IT vendors at the beginning of 2014.

“This system is new to consumers, front line assisters and the market. Everyone’s comfort-level is going to grow day-by-day,” said Cohen. “On day one, we experienced higher call volumes in the morning because of some kinks we needed to work out on the operational side of the project. We took some swift steps – including adding 60 call center representatives and updating our Getting Started Guide with helpful tips – to be responsive and were ultimately able to reduce wait times from an average of 20 minutes to zero.”

In addition to call wait times, some consumers reported issues stemming from account creation and identity verification system requirements. Everyone, regardless of whether they previously created a Health Connector account and log-in, must set up a new account in order to access the new online system for 2015 coverage opportunities. Additionally, the ACA incorporates several program integrity measures, including requiring all states to confirm a consumer’s identity. If Massachusetts applicants encounter challenges with this part of the application, they can send the Health Connector certain identity verification documents to help advance the application process.

The Massachusetts Operations Command Center, the project’s technical and operational epicenter, opened for its third straight day at 7 a.m. Monday morning. The center, which houses over 100 IT, policy and business operations officials from the state, Optum, hCentive, Dell and Maximus, is responsible for providing constant systems monitoring, identifying issues that will impact consumers and the marketplace and developing and implementing solutions. Going into the first full weekday of Open Enrollment, the Commonwealth and its vendors will have over 500 customer service agents on the phones and processing applications, an increase of 370 from the weekend.

ADDITIONALSTATEMENTS

“I depend on the Health Connector for my health insurance. The online transaction was quick, the choices were broad and, for my money, I have much better coverage in 2015 than prior years,” said Jane Kramer, 58 years old, Lexington, Massachusetts

November 15, 2014

Here's the latest from the state's Health and Human Services office:

Good Afternoon!

 

Today is an exciting day, as it marks the launch of the new MAhealthconnector.org website. This morning at 7:35 a.m., the Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange went live. We are happy to report that consumers are moving through the system, being determined eligible for coverage, shopping, selecting, and enrolling in plans. No major issues have been reported and the website is stable.

 

Since we went live, 2,117 people enrolled in MassHealth coverage through MAhealthconnector.org. Over the same time period, 1,923 have been found eligible for a Health Connector plan. 477 of these people have already shopped and selected their plans. The remainder need to complete the shopping, plan selection and enrollment process.

 

In total, so far today, the website has determined 4,040 people eligible for Affordable Care Act coverage.

 

As of 1:00 p.m., 780 people were on the website at the same time, including 300 who were anonymously browsing and 480 people who created accounts, a first step toward being determined eligible for coverage, selecting and enrolling in a plan.  The Massachusetts Operations Command Center has more than 100 IT, policy and business operations officials closely monitoring the website and call centers. The Health Connector's call center, which is open today and tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., is currently experiencing high call volumes. We are excited that there is early interest in Open Enrollment and are working to bring in more staff to help meet demand.

And see WBUR's report from the opening this morning, including this great picture from the command center at launch time (photo credit: Rachel Paiste/WBUR)

:

 

November 14, 2014

Colbert led Thursday night with the #grubergate story, so hopefully that means it's run its course. The clip below is his open on the topic. Click here to see his next segment, an interview with New York Times Magazine writer Emily Bazelon on the ACA challenge in the Supreme Court.

 

Consumer Experience - Eligibility System (Connector slide 11-13-14)
November 14, 2014

Connector summary slide 11-13-14

Open enrollment is just days away, and Thursday's Health Connector board meeting was all about confidence and optimism: "Today we pledge to the Commonwealth's residents who are in need of health insurance that they will be able to access it," declared health website czar Maydad Cohen. The optimism is justified, based on evidence presented to the board of extensive performance testing and analytics. Still, everyone is waiting to see how things unfold on Saturday. But the best comment came from new board member Rick Jakious. He said he had looked at last year's meeting notes, and was struck by the amount of rigor and information the board is seeing now, compared to last fall. He also said that he had visited the Connector/MassHealth enrollment command center (the MOCC; do not mock the MOCC), and concluded that "we're ready for the zombie acopalypse if it struck on Saturday."

Connector summary slide 2 11-13-14

Board materials have moved to the betterhealthconnector.com site, here. The key slide presentations were on their eligibility and enrollment processing system readiness (they called it the "Go-Live System Update"), and on the comprehensive outreach and education plan for the upcoming open enrollment. Our full report requires only a click:

November 13, 2014

HCFA was proud to participate today in a State House briefing on new research detailing how consumer debt prevents low-income Massachusetts residents from achieving economic independence.

The briefing was sponsored by the Crittenton Women's Union (CWU), which helps thousands of low-income women and families, and advocates for research-backed solutions to reduce the economic, political, and social barriers disadvantaged women face, and build self-sufficiency. The packed room heard about a new CWU report, which found that high consumer debt levels severely impact low income Bay Staters, affecting access to education, job opportunities, and health. The report was covered in today's Boston Globe. State Senators Jamie Eldridge and Michael Barrett spoke, as well as a CWU client who told a harrowing story about medical misfortunes leading to debt and devestating consequences.

Our focus was on the impact on health care. We noted that poor health can be a cause of high levels of debt, and that, conversely, high levels of debt can be a cause of poor access to health care. The report recommended support for HCFA's Barrier-Free Care bill, which will be re-introduced for the next legislative session. The bill would eliminate cost sharing such as co-pays and deductibles for cost-effective preventive care for people with chronic illness. This would reduce the mounting out-of-pocket costs that often cause patients to skip or skimp on needed treatment, leading to worse and more expensive outcomes. We also expressed support for legislation supported by our partner, Health Law advocates, to limit hospital and other medical debt accumulated by uninsured people.

The report's findings is summarized in this infographic:

 

November 12, 2014

Health Connector Open Enrollment press release 11-12-14

This just came in from the Health Connector:

BOSTON – Wednesday, November 12, 2014 – Tomorrow, Maydad Cohen, the Governor’s Special Assistant for Project Delivery, and John Santelli, Chief Information Officer for Optum, the state’s Systems Integrator, will update the public on the launch of MAhealthconnector.org, the Commonwealth’s revamped health insurance Exchange website, during the Health Connector Board of Directors meeting. The system will go-live at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15, allowing people who need coverage to sign up for the health and economic benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

Open Enrollment is the time when anyone can apply for health care. People who meet income eligibility requirements can get help paying for their coverage through the Health Connector or free coverage through MassHealth. During Open Enrollment, current Health Connector or temporary MassHealth members must submit a new application if they want to continue to receive their health insurance through the Commonwealth.

...

What Consumers Can Do on MAhealthconnector.org

Beginning Saturday at 8 a.m., consumers will have faster, easier, better access to health security. Here is what the new website will allow consumers to do:

  • Browse health plans anonymously
  • Create a new account
  • Complete an application online
  • Find out what program they qualify for (MassHealth, subsidized coverage through the Health Connector or shopping in the commercial market through the Health Connector)
  • Compare plans, including premiums, co-pays, benefits and other important details online
  • Select a plan to purchase
  • Pay premium

Where Consumers Can Get Help

The Commonwealth has a rich assister community to support consumers during the application and enrollment process. There are over 1,300 Certified Application Counselors (CACs) and 15 Navigator organizations across the state to provide free, in-person assistance. A list of local assisters can be found today at: https://bettermahealthconnector.org/get-help/ and, beginning November 15, at MAhealthconnector.org/help-center/

Additionally, customer service representatives for MassHealth and the Health Connector are prepared to answer consumers’ questions and assist them in completing their applications and enrolling in coverage. The call centers can be reached at:

Health Connector Customer Service
1-877-623-6765 (TTY: 1-877-623-7773)
Open during first weekend of Open Enrollment, on November 15 and 16, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Regular business hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

MassHealth Customer Service
1-800-841-2900 (TTY 1-800-497-4648)
Open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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