January 2015

Connector extends deadline to Friday, 1-30 for Feb 1 coverage
January 26, 2015

Just in from the Connector:

Given the state of emergency and statewide travel ban, the Health Connector’s call center offices in Boston and Worcester will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, January 27. However, consumers will still be able to call 1-877-MA-ENROLL from 8:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. for application and payment assistance. We will be leveraging a limited number of off-site customer service representatives to continue to assist consumers during this busy period.

Additionally, the payment deadline for February 1 coverage has been moved from Wednesday, January 28 to Friday, January 30 in recognition of the fact that the winter storm will impact our ability to operate at full capacity and accept in-person payments on Tuesday (and potentially Wednesday; we are currently planning to be open on Wednesday, but will re-evaluate based on the weather tomorrow afternoon). We want to ensure that we help as many people who selected a plan by Friday, January 23 complete the payment process for February 1 coverage. We are confident that we will be back to normal operations by Thursday, giving consumers two additional business days to pay for February 1 coverage.

Please continue to monitor the Health Connector’s website and Twitter account for the latest information.

Meanwhile, the Connector and MassHealth reported today that they have exceeded 400,000 eligibility determinations for this year's coverage - a remarkable milestone:

Connector tops 400,000 eligibiles

January 20, 2015

With the new legislative session comes a host of new legislative ideas.

HCFA worked with a diverse group of legislators in both the House and Senate to file a broad package of legislation. You can see a 2-page brief summary of each of our priority bills here. The proposed legislation include the following proposals:

  • Reduce Out-Of-Pocket Costs by ending cost sharing,  like co-pays and deductibles, for highly cost-effective preventive care, like ashtma inhalers, diabetic insulin, or hypertension drugs.
  • Give Kids The Chance To Be Successful through comprehensive refoms to health, hunger and housing policies that impact children.
  • Preserve Affordable Health Coverage by extending current premiums and cost sharing levels for people getting help through the Health Connector
  • Restore MassHealth Dental Benefits that were cut several years ago, affecting over 800,000 individuals, including 120,000 seniors and 180,000 people with disabilities who do not get adequate dental care.
  • Open Up Prescription Drug Cost Transparency so that the public can learn what drugs really cost to manufacture, how much people in other countries pay, and the actual research costs for our most expensive drugs, and if warranted, stop  unfair price gouging in our prescriptions.
  • Protect Consumer Rights In Tiered Network Insurance Plans by requiring transparency and consumer protections to tiered and limited network insurance plans, so all consumers have access to a low-cost provider in their geographic area and that uniform and transparent tiering. 
  • Maintain Confidentiality in Medical Care to allow patients to protect their confidentiality when benefit explanations are sent to policyholders.
  • Improve the Children’s Medical Security Program by allowing flexibility to address the health needs of children by eliminating limits on services.
  • Ensure Low-Income Children Have Medical Coverage by keeping the state's CHIP program intact regardless of federal decisions.
  • Ease the Burden of Medical Debt by setting debt collection practices and hospital charity care policies to prevent patients from incurring unpayable medical bills.
  • Standardize Benefits for Children’s Health Insurance Plans by requiring commercial insurance coverage for children to meet the same standards as Medicaid. 
  • Create a New Division of Health Insurance to remedy current fragmentation by creating a new integrated Division of Health Insurance under EOHHS.
  • Guarantee Physician Continuity for Children allows children to stay with their caregiver despite insurance changes.
January 16, 2015

Open enrollment is here

We are 60 days into Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment. While there has been a lot of progress in transitioning Massachusetts residents to new coverage, there is a long way to go by February 15th, the last day of the formal open enrollment period.

UPDATE - the Connector has extended the payment deadline on Friday. See this:

Governor Baker Extends Massachusetts Health Connector Payment Deadline Through January 28



Boston - Tonight, Governor Charlie Baker announced a payment deadline extension for the Massachusetts Health Connector.  The deadline for enrollment was set for tonight for individuals to select and pay for a health care plan, but due to overwhelming wait times, the Baker Administration has ordered the Massachusetts Health Connector to continue accepting payments until next Wednesday for enrollees seeking coverage for February 1st.    



Massachusetts Health Connector call centers and a walk-in center (located at 133 Portland Street, Boston) will be open the following times for individuals to make payments for their applications for insurance plans to begin on February 1st:



Saturday, January 24th from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM 

Monday, January 26th from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Tuesday, January 27th  from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM

Wednesday, January 28th  from 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM



"With long wait times, the Health Connector is still struggling to meet the needs of health care consumers, and with that in mind we believe extending the deadline for payment is the right thing to do,” said Governor Baker.



Individuals can go online, contact the call centers, visit the Portland Street walk-in center or mail payments to the Health Connector only to complete the payment process for enrollees seeking coverage for February 1st.  Individuals submitting new enrollment applications can be submitted until February 15th to select a health care plan beginning March 1st.

 

 

Commonwealth Care and many temporary MassHealth members have coverage end dates this month, and need to submit a new application by the appropriate deadline. People eligible for plans through the Health Connector, need to  apply, pick a plan and pay their premium (if they have one) by January 23rd for February 1st coverage.

Health Care For All created this fact sheet outlining coverage end dates and what people need to do to avoid a gap in coverage.

Next week is expected to be an extremely busy time for the Health Connector, MassHealth and the enrollment assister community, as the January 23rd deadline approaches.

January 15, 2015

MAhealthconnector.org has made over 353,000 program determinations for ACA health insurance.

Like the December meeting, when the Connector Board bid farewell to former Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor, today’s Connector Board meeting was one of transitions. It was the first meeting shared by the new Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore, as well as the last board meeting for Jean Yang in her capacity as Executive Director of the Health Connector. Jean shared parting words reflecting on her time as Executive Director and recognizing the hard work of her staff. Several board members also shared their thanks and reflections on Jean’s time at the Connector.

The substance of the meeting focused on progress and work ahead to ensure people transition to Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant coverage during this open enrollment period and approval of a contract extension for the Connector’s risk adjustment work.

Meeting materials are posted here and our full report is below.

Governor Patrick at HCFA's "For The People" Dinner, 2014
January 7, 2015

It started long before he was even Governor, when he was just one of a number of long-shot candidates. In the fall of 2005, Deval Patrick endorsed our long-shot health reform proposal, calling it “a credible, achievable means to bring immediate progress.” Over and over, he declared that health care was a public good.

Our bill was merged with ideas from Governor Romney, Speaker DiMasi, and many others, but it was eventually became Chapter 58. The law passed in April 2006, just months before the November election. So implementation largely fell to Governor Patrick. Barely a week after being sworn in, he personally attended his administration’s first Connector Board meeting, pledging his commitment and concern for meaningful health reform.

Under Governor Patrick’s leadership, the Connector and MassHealth made health reform work, leading to the lowest uninsurance rate in the country, expanding employer coverage, improving access to care, and better overall health. His stewardship of health reform, focusing on affordability, strengthening the Connector’s role in assuring that people get meaningful coverage, and opening up the decision-making process to the public led to the confidence that national leaders could draw upon to fashion the Affordable Care Act.

The 2006 health reform law is sometimes called RomneyCare. Governor Patrick made it work, and set the stage for national reforms. Integrating the ACA into our framework took more work, and Governor Patrick excelled there, too.

Governor Baker inherits this challenge of continuing to keep Massachusetts at the vanguard of meaningful reform.

But there’s another law, equally historic, that rightfully should be called PatrickCare, though no one yet does.

In his first inaugural address, Governor Patrick set his sights beyond expanding coverage:

I know we can have more accessible and more affordable health care for ourselves and our families. But it will take transparency among clinicians and health insurers, a system of care that makes more use of community settings, simplified administrative systems, and government stewardship for the good of the whole. Let’s reach for that.

The process that led to 2012’s Chapter 224, our comprehensive cost control and delivery reform law, deserves a detailed study. It is only due Governor Patrick’s leadership and patience that we now have a real opening to improve care and control costs.

As hard as expanding coverage is, just about everyone is a winner, so only the details are at issue. But controlling costs means there must be losers as well as winners, and that’s much harder in politics.

We can’t forget his impassioned demand, repeated over and over, that we must “crack the code” on health care costs. Here’s how WBUR covered his “pounding the podium” in a 2011 speech:

There’s an emerging consensus on solutions: well integrated, whole-person care equates to lower costs — instead of fee-for-service, we should pay for integrated care.

“We have got to stop being defeated by the complexity of this.” (Here the governor starts pounding the podium and raises his voice.) There can be “no more talk about how complicated it us so we can’t solve it.” (Applause)

The goal is: better, more affordable health care for everyone

Chapter 224 is still a work in progress. The signs are positive. But the potential for a state, again, to lead the way on the toughest issue in health care, makes his achievement in this area historic. And for all of that, we thank him.

Governor Baker also inherits this challenge, of cracking the cost code, and further implementing Chapter 224. We look forward to his vigorous attention to the consumer concerns as cost and quality issues stay at the center of health policy.

And then there’s everything else. The first bill Governor Patrick signed, Chapter 1 of the Acts of 2007, was a reform of the Public Health Council, opening up its membership to the broader health community. A new coverage program for people with disabilities, real progress on behavioral health parity and children’s mental health, a unique program to invest in community public health prevention, and on and on. And for all of that, we thank him.

Governor Patrick’s legacy is broad, but health care will be at the center of the stage. For that, we thank him.

   - Brian Rosman

January 4, 2015

Health Care For All is working with the Connector and MassHealth to sponsor a number of free health coverage enrollment events in the coming weeks. This is a chance to sign up for coverage, and get personal help and questions answered by authoritative experts.

The next two events are in Worcester, on Wednesday, January 7, and Fall River, on Monday, January 12.

The Worcester event will run from noon to 8 p.m. at the DCU Center at 50 Foster Street, on January 7.

In Fall River, it will be also be from noon to 8 p.m., at Bristol Community College – Building G, at 777 Elsbree Street, on January 12.

The events will include:

  • FREE enrollment assistance from trained helpers
  • FREE information from Health Connector carriers
  • FREE healthy interactive activities
  • FREE food and drinks, giveaways, and other fun surprises (including, we hear, the Worcester Sharks hockey team at the Worcester event!)

For more information, please visit the Connector's events information page, which includes details on what people should bring to the event, and a link to a recommended (but not required) RSVP form. Walk-in are welcome, too.