Framingham – State legislators, town officials, and health care advocates joined Health Care For All (HCFA) in Framingham today to urge MetroWest residents – and in particular, those who are traditionally under-enrolled and under-insured – to enroll or reenroll before the January 31st end to this Open Enrollment period.
“Massachusetts has the nation’s highest rate of health insurance, with over 97% of the population covered; however there are areas in the Commonwealth where many remain uninsured. Framingham, for example, has a significant number of uninsured residents, and we know that many uninsured residents speak a language other than English. Today, we are here to help people navigate the enrollment process in English, Spanish and Portuguese," said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, Executive Director of Health Care For All.
To reach MetroWest residents, HCFA, in close collaboration with the Massachusetts Health Connector, kicked off an ethnic media campaign on January 2nd, inviting them to call HCFA’s HelpLine (800-272-4232), visit www.hcfama.org, or stop by the Fuller Middle School in Framingham today to get in-person assistance. Nearly fifty media outlets participated, including television, radio and print in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole.
“We know that the state’s Latino population is traditionally less covered than the state as a whole,” said Louis Gutierrez, Executive Director of the Health Connector. “We are excited to partner with HCFA in this program reaching out to Hispanics and other ethnic communities and for this opportunity in Framingham for hundreds of people to sign up for health insurance and start realizing the benefits of coverage.”
According to a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation report, Framingham’s rate of uninsurance is more than twice that of the state as a whole: 7.4% of its residents reportedly lacking health insurance. Thirty-five percent of Framingham residents speak a different language than English. Almost 15% of the town’s population is of Hispanic or Latino origin, including Spanish-and-Portuguese speakers.
Gutierrez added, “Having health insurance makes it easier and less costly to go to the doctor, and so far during Open Enrollment more than 30,000 people have signed up for new coverage through the Health Connector.”
More than 70 volunteers were on hand at the Framingham school to help MetroWest residents enroll or reenroll in health insurance.
“Health issues are one of the most common triggers to creating a cascade of problems that overwhelm individuals and whole families. Once that cascade starts, it is very difficult to stop, and the results can include homelessness, medical illness and lack of employment,” stated State Representative Chris Walsh (D-Framingham). “Having a universal health safety net is critical to the success of our Commonwealth. Because the average number of uninsured residents in Framingham was over 5,000 people in 2013, it is vital that the remaining both long and short-term uninsured populations throughout the Commonwealth are educated on opportunities to receive affordable coverage.” He concluded, “I encourage my constituents to make their health a priority by enrolling in health insurance as early as possible.”
Individuals who do not sign up for coverage by January 31st must wait until the next open enrollment period, unless they have a special circumstance like a job loss or the birth of a child. Those without health insurance face penalties when filing their 2016 taxes.
"We're here to encourage everybody to get health insurance before the Open Enrollment deadline, or to look at the coverage that they have and make sure it is what they want," added Slemmer.