Obamacare in Massachusetts: Incremental Transformation
Understandably, there's lots media attention on October 1 as the D-Day for health reform. The health insurance marketplaces will be newly open in every state (of course, in Massachusetts we've had our Health Connector since 2006), and people can shop for both subsidized and unsubsidized coverage. But it's just the start of an open enrollment period that will continue through next March. Even if someone enrolls on October 1, coverage doesn't begin until January. Still, October 1 is a critical date.
For us in Massachusetts, though, October 1 is more of a milestone along an evolutionary path for health reform here.
If anyone needs specific information or personal assistance on how the ACA (Affordable Care Act / Obamacare) will impact them as Massachusetts residents, you can call the Health Care For All Helpline tollfree at 800-272-4232. For more information, or to send us questions by email, click here. In addition, you can call the Health Connector at 877-MA-ENROLL (1-877-623-6765), or go to their website at www.MAhealthconnector.org.
No Wrong Door
On October 1, the Health Connector will unveil their new web site, and their new online eligibility portal will open for business. For people looking for unsubsidized coverage, the new streamlined system will take in all the information and allow you to pick a plan. For those who may be eligible for subsidies (generally earning under $46,000 for an individual, or $94,000 for a family of 4), a new online form will replace the current paper "Medical Benefit Request" for people applying for coverage starting in January. The same form and process will work for MassHealth, the new federal premium tax credits and subsidies, and the Health Safety Net program. The motto is, "No Wrong Door." But people needing current coverage should still use the current form.
As the new system comes online, additional functionality will be added over the next few weeks. We look forward to being among the early testers of the system to identify the any bugs and glitches that may pop up, and have seen a strong commitment by the Connector and the administration to receiving ongoing feedback from users. The staff working on the massive Health Insurance Exchange/Integrated Eligibility System (what the state calls "HIX/IES," pronounced "hixies") has been working overtime, and we appreciate all the efforts so far to bring us a 21st century eligibility system.
Come January, we'll see lots of changes. People buying individual coverage on their own will find new choices and options, including dental coverage. For small businesses, the Health Connector will provide tax credits and wellness discounts. People getting coverage through Commonwealth Care or the Medical Security Program will switch to either MassHealth or ConnectorCare, our state's name for the federal and state assistance with premiums and cost-sharing program. MassHealth's confusing array of different benefit plans will simplify somewhat, with fewer categories and more consistent benefits. And state taxpayers will get a big break as the federal government picks up more of the cost of coverage programs, particularly for children, legal immigrants, and low-income working families.
Three and a half years ago we released this graphic, and used it with a series of posts on how the ACA will benefit the Bay State:
With October 1 a day away, we're looking forward even more to January.