2-13-15 Feature Story:
BOSTON - February 13, 2015 - The Massachusetts Health Connector and MassHealth announced today they are extending the deadline to complete an application and pick a plan to Feb. 23, acknowledging the toll a series of snowstorms in Massachusetts - including another one forecast for this weekend - has taken on operations and the ability for people to sign up for insurance.
The deadline was Feb. 15, but the extreme weather has led to a number of days this month with the call center short-staffed, leading to long wait times for consumers looking for assistance. The extension gives applicants an additional week to complete an application, find out if they qualify for MassHealth or Health Connector coverage, select a plan and make a payment as necessary. The Feb. 23 deadline for making a payment stays in place.
"We here in Massachusetts have experienced an extraordinary month of weather that has not only limited our operations, but also taken over the day-to-day lives of residents as they shovel out and try to deal with the snow," said Louis Gutierrez, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Health Connector. "We worked closely with the Baker-Polito Administration to create this extension, which gives people a little more time to finish up what they need to do to get health insurance through the Commonwealth."
Through Feb. 11, more than 464,000 people had completed an application and been determined qualified for MassHealth or a Health Connector Qualified Health Plan. About 343,000 have enrolled in coverage, including 240,000 being automatically enrolled in MassHealth, and an additional 102,000 enrolling in a subsidized or unsubsidized Qualified Health Plan through the Health Connector.
The series of snowstorms in recent weeks led to the closure of the Commonwealth's offices on four occasions, which led to limited staffing of the Health Connector's and MassHealth's call centers and long wait times for applicants seeking assistance. To account for this, the Health Connector has created an additional one-week period after Feb. 15, during which Massachusetts residents can continue to enroll. This additional period, along with already-established expanded call center times, gives applicants more time and access to assistance.
With another significant storm forecast for this weekend, the Health Connector's call center will not be taking inbound calls on Sunday, Feb. 15, but will make return calls to consumers who have requested calls. For those who want to check on a payment made in recent days, members are reminded that it can take a few days for a payment to be processed with the member's bank, and they are encouraged to contact the Health Connector when it resumes full staffing on Tuesday, Feb. 17.
The Health Connector has already expanded its call center hours through Feb. 23, including weekend hours next Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21 and 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Monday, Feb. 23, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Health Connector's walk-in center expanded staffing at the 133 Portland St., Boston, office is in place today. Weekend plans will be made based on the forecast and public transportation availability. Visit MAhealthconnector.org for updates. Additional walk-in center opportunities may be available as the Health Connector works with its partners to define staffing and infrastructure capabilities.