Open Enrollment Campaign Reminds That Massachusetts Still Requires Health Insurance
Massachusetts has the highest rate of health insurance coverage in the country. The goal of one state agency is to keep it that way in 2019, as health care requirements on the federal level continue to change.
The Massachusetts Health Connector has undertaken a three-week statewide tour to promote the start of open enrollment on Nov. 1st.
Through a social media campaign and in-person outreach by health exchange staffers, the goal is to remind everyone that Massachusetts still has an individual mandate, according to Health Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts.
"The federal penalities are going away, but the state mandate remains in place as it has since 2006, so if you are a Massachusetts resident and you don't have health insurance you could face a tax penalty," said Lefforts.
The Health Connector will offer 57 insurance plans from nine carriers. Premiums have gone up by an average of 5 percent. Last year, there were double-digit rate increases after federal subsidy payments were cut.
"If you are buying on the open market you certainly should be shopping," said Lefforts. He said there are new plans being offered this year which provide more benefits for less cost to the insured.
This year, 97 percent of Massachusetts adults have health insurance. But in Springfield and Holyoke between 5 percent and 7 percent of people are uninsured, according to Lefferts.
He said data shows young single Latino men tend to be uninsured.
To reach out to that population, a recent stop on the health connector’s open enrollment promotional tour included the Old San Juan Bakery, Puerto Rico Convenience Store, and a couple of small specialty shops in a plaza in Springfield’s predominately Latino North End neighborhood.
Outreach workers put up signs in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese in store windows and chatted with the local business owners.
Rosario Urive, who along with her husband owns R & S Family Fashion – a clothing store that caters to young adults – said she’s happy to help spread the word about health insurance to her customers.
"They need this. This is very important," said Urive.
Democratic State Rep. Carlos Gonzalez of Springfield applauded the outreach effort.
" You can raise and spend a lot of money, but if you don't have the on-the-ground connection with the community, the churches and the businesses it is not going to be effective, especially in the Latino community," said Gonzalez.
The Health Connector has contracted with local organizations to provide so-called navigators to help people make decisions about buying health insurance and completing an online application.
In Springfield, the local organization is Caring Health Center.
The open enrolment period in Massachusetts is from Nov 1- January 23, 2019.