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Obamacare Marketplace Profile: Massachusetts’ Health Insurance Exchange

Obamacare Marketplace Profile: Massachusetts’ Health Insurance Exchange

Posted Sep 18, 2013 by Jenifer Dorsey

Exchange name: Health Connector

The Massachusetts Health Connector exchange existed pre-Obamacare and contains several programs; some will be going away. Commonwealth Choice is the online health insurance marketplace.
Website: www.mahealthconnector.org
State-based or federally run: Massachusetts’ Health Connector is among the 17 declared state-based health insurance exchanges, which include Washington, D.C. The exchange structure is quasi-governmental, which means it is an independent public agency.
Plans: Massachusetts 2006 health reform law enacted “near-universal health coverage for state residents” and became the model for national health reform, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The state boasts the highest rate of insured residents in the nation, 98.1 percent.
Those currently enrolled in Commonwealth Choice plans will be able to keep their current coverage; however, it is wise for all individuals and families to review their coverage annually and make sure it still fits health and budgetary needs. The Massachusetts exchange held an open enrollment this summer and will participate in the national open enrollment Oct. 1. Anyone can change his or her health plan at that time.
The following carriers offer plans through Commonwealth Choice:

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
  • BMC HealthNet Plan
  • CeltiCare
  • Fallon Community Health Plan
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Health New England
  • Neighborhood Health Plan
  • Network Health
  • Tufts Health Plan

Consumers may shop for and compare plans at www.mahealthconnector.org, where brochures are available for the various health insurance options. Because Massachusetts has already enacted many Affordable Care Act provisions, i’s health plans will change little. It is even where the Obamacare metal plans originated. As with all qualified health plans, Massachusetts exchange offerings will include benefits in the 10 categories of essential health benefits and preventive care at no additional cost. A young adult plan will be available for those 18 to 26 years old.
Commonwealth Choice operates under the active purchaser model, which means that it selects which health plans it contracts with and negotiates premium rates with carriers.
Rates: Consumers may access health insurance rates during 2014 open enrollment. Monthly premiums will vary based on plan selection as well as the applicant’s age, geographical location, family size and tobacco use. Under the Affordable Care Act, Americans cannot be denied coverage or charged more due to preexisting conditions. These provisions apply whether plans are purchased via the marketplace or not.
A study commissioned by the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts estimated that Obamacare will raise individual and small group premiums by an average of 3.7 percent in 2014, according MassLive.com.
Those who purchase health coverage through state-based and federally operated exchanges may qualify for tax credits and additional premium subsidies, depending on household income. The healthedeals.com Health Care Reform Calculator, which was listed among The Financial Times “Best Online Tools for the Toughest Health Questions,” can help those planning to buy from an exchange calculate their Obamacare health insurance cost and tax credit.
Consumer assistance: Navigators are being trained to assist individuals, families and small businesses find and apply for the right health insurance plan. The 10 organizations that received Health Connector grants for Aug. 1, 2013, through July 31, 2014, include:

  • Boston Public Health Commission
  • Caring Health Center
  • Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands, Inc.
  • Ecu-Health Care
  • Greater Lawrence Community Action Council
  • Hilltown Community Health Care Centers
  • Joint Committee for Children’s Health Care in Everett
  • Manet Community Health Center
  • MAPS – Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers
  • PACE – People Acting in Community Endeavors

Those with questions about Massachusetts Health Reform may call 877-MA-ENROLL (877-623-6765) or click here to fill out an online form.
Need coverage now?
If you need health insurance to get you by until January 1, 2014, a temporary insurance plan can provide coverage for as few as 30 days. Start shopping on healthedeals.com or contact a healthedeals.com sales consultant for more information on short-term health insurance and supplemental plans.

Jenifer Dorsey is a freelance writer whose specialties include health and fitness, wellness, sports and recreation. She is a competitive amateur track cyclist who also enjoys mountain biking, hiking, camping and other outdoor adventure. Jenifer received a B.A. in journalism from Columbia College Chicago and is an MFA candidate at Naropa University. She lives in Colorado.