Your Guide to Massachusetts Health Insurance
Before we jump right into Massachusetts health insurance and everything you need to know, let’s start with a little background information. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a “Obamacare” or ACA) was passed with the goal of getting all Americans access to affordable health insurance. To meet this goal, one measure Obamacare took was to create the ACA health insurance marketplaces, or health exchanges: one-stop shops where Americans can choose from a range of standardized, government-regulated health care plans. Health exchanges are also where eligible people can get subsidies, which lower the cost of their health plans.
States were given the option to run their own local exchange, take part in a multi-state exchange, or use the federal exchange. States that run their own exchanges get to customize many elements, including the time frame during which their residents can sign up for a plan. Several states decided to operate their own state exchanges and continue to do so to this day. Massachusetts is one of those states.
Massachusetts’ Health Insurance Landscape: Then and Now
The Massachusetts health insurance exchange is called Massachusetts Health Connector. Before the ACA, 6.3 percent of Massachusettsan were uninsured. Since the introduction of Massachusetts Health Connector, the percent of Massachusettsan without health insurance has dropped to 2.5! 270 thousand people have enrolled for health insurance through Massachusetts Health Connector, and Massachusetts has the lowest uninsured rate in the country.
The Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange
Massachusetts Health Connector is where eligible people throughout the state can find subsidized ACA plans. Open Enrollment for 2019 in Massachusetts begins November 1 and ends January 23. If you sign up by December 23, your coverage will start January 1. However, if you sign up after December 23, you will have to wait until February 1 to use your plan. Lucky you – this sign up window is significantly longer than the window given on the federal exchange!
Massachusetts Health Connector uses an active purchaser model for their exchange. This means that Massachusetts Health Connector negotiates with health insurance carriers directly to get the best rates, networks, and benefits possible for you.
Like all other state exchanges, each plan on Massachusetts Health Connector covers 10 essential health benefits. These include things like prescription coverage, maternity and mental health care, and laboratory services.
Buying insurance with Massachusetts Health Connector involves four steps:
1. Create an account on Massachusetts Health Connector
2. Complete the online application form
3. Compare your options
4. Select your plan and enroll
In true health insurance fashion, each of these steps can be trickier than you expect. Many people need help navigating the website, estimating their income, figuring out if they are eligible for subsidies, and understanding what documents are needed for proof of income, citizenship, or identity. Luckily, you can find a navigator to help you with your application!
Massachusetts’ Health Connector Intricacies: What You Need to Know for 2019
Eight insurers are offering plans on Massachusetts Health Connector for 2019. These eight carriers include:
AllWays Health Partners (previously Neighborhood Health Plan)
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan
Fallon Community Health Plan
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
Health New England
Tufts Health Plan
As of 2016, Neighborhood Health Plan, Tufts Health Plan, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and BMC HealthNet made up the majority of the Massachusetts health insurance market. Massachusettsan are lucky because there is a wide variety of carriers participating in the exchange. This means you have a pretty good selection when choosing a plan.
According to state authorities, insurance plan prices are increasing. The amount by which it increases depends on where in Massachusetts you live. On average across the state, your monthly premium will increase by 4.7 percent if you choose to keep your current health plan. While this may seem scary, most health insurance shoppers can generally avoid rate increases entirely by switching to the cheapest plan within their metal tier. Not to mention, you will likely qualify for a health insurance subsidy, which can help make your plan more affordable; of the 270 thousand people enrolled through Massachusetts Health Connector, 155 thousand receive federal subsidies.
If you live in Massachusetts, the start of Open Enrollment (the time of year when you can enroll in a new health plan) is here. Be sure to find your most affordable plan, and you’ll be well on your way for smarter, better savings all year long. And don’t forget – if you need help finding a subsidy or picking a plan, our experts are here to help!