Massachusetts health insurance exchange
Upgrades slow performance of Massachusetts Health Connector
By Carla Anderson
December 6, 2013
Between Oct. 1 and Nov. 20, more than 23,000 Massachusetts residents have completed applications on the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state-run health insurance marketplace. During the same period, just more than 1,000 have selected a health plan. The current open enrollment period runs from through March 31, 2014. Policies must be purchased by Dec. 23 for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.
Ten health insurers are offering 114 options on the Health Connector for 2014:
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
- BMC HealthNet Plan
- CeltiCare Health Plan of Massachusetts
- Fallon Community Health Plan (FCHP)
- Harvard Pilgrim Health Care (HPHC)
- Health New England (HNE)
- Minuteman Health
- Neighborhood Health Plan (NHP)
- Network Health
- Tufts Health Plan
The state health insurance marketplaces created by 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) are modeled on the Massachusetts exchange. The Massachusetts Health Connector was established by the state’s 2006 health care reform law, which was signed by then-Governor Mitt Romney. In 2010, the Health Connector added Business Express for businesses with up to 50 employees.
While the Health Connector gave Massachusetts a massive head start over other states, it did not meet all ACA requirements. The state uses the term Connector 2.0 to refer to the ACA-compliant version of its health insurance exchange. Here are some of the significant changes made to the Health Connector to comply with ACA.
- Connector 2.0 eliminates Commonwealth Care, which provided subsidized health insurance to about 250,000 people with incomes up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Part of this group moves to MassHealth, the state program that includes Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Others will now use the Health Connector.
- Connector 2.0 increases the number of people who are eligible for subsidies to offset premium costs; people earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level are now eligible for subsidies.
- Policies sold through Health Connector now include dental benefits.
- Businesses with more than 50 employees that don’t offer health insurance are subject to higher penalties, and business that don’t offer insurance considered affordable face a new penalty.
Unfortunately, the technical upgrades required to make Health Connector ACA-compliant have degraded performance of the website. Insurers report that not all options they have available are showing up on the website. Consumers face glitches including broken links, error messages, and “frozen” screens. Consumers are also experiencing long waits to speak with customer service representatives. The Boston Globe reports that Health Connector officials have called in experts from CGI, the company that built the website, and Oracle, which is the main software used to build the site.
Massachusetts health insurance exchange links
Massachusetts Health Connector
State Exchange Profile: Massachusetts
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Massachusetts’ progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Health Care for All – Massachusetts Consumer Assistance Program
Assists people insured by private health plans, Medicaid, or other plans in resolving problems pertaining to their health coverage; assists uninsured residents with access to care.(800) 272-4232
Office of Patient Protection, Department of Public Health
800-436-7757 (toll-free nationwide)
Serves residents and other consumers who receive health coverage from a Massachusetts carrier, insurer, or HMO.