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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Open Enrollment Season is Upon Us

Open Enrollment Season is Upon Us

November 1, 2016

Open Enrollment starts nowThe Health Connector's Open Enrollment period has begun, and with it, the opportunity for people to sign up for health insurance or renew their coverage for 2017. In Massachusetts, ten insurers are offering up 62 different plans for the next year. During this year’s Open Enrollment, it is especially important for Health Connector members to review their plan and compare their options, as some changes have been enacted that may affect their coverage.

Some Connector members will be facing substantial increases in monthly premiums. About 70,000 notices from the Health Connector will be going out this month regarding a premium increase of at least 15%. For those enrolled in a Neighborhood Health Plan, the average increase is 21%.

Prior to this enrollment period, the State had been able to help subsidize the difference in premium costs between plans with a process called “smoothing,” but due to budget constraints, this process has been discontinued for 2017. This means that low-income ConnectorCare members enrolled in Neighborhood Health Plan may have to pay up to $165 a month to maintain their coverage and network of providers. Other individuals may also be subject to paying higher premiums in 2017. While the Health Connector has other less expensive insurance plans with comparable benefits, it is important for consumers to know that in some cases changing plans may mean changing providers as well.

Another change to look out for this Open Enrollment season is some members may find that they are not eligible for tax credits this year. This could be for a couple of reasons. Those who have recently become entitled to Medicare do not qualify for subsidized insurance. Members on ConnectorCare or Advanced Premium Tax Credits are also required to have filed their 2015 taxes in order to maintain benefits as data from 2015 tax returns will be used to determine eligibility for subsidies in 2017 coverage.

HCFA will be monitoring how these premium increases are impacting consumers. We are concerned that this may impact people’s decisions to re-enroll if their preferred plan has become out of reach, or if they are not able to remain with their existing medical care team. 

--Angela Swanson