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Massachusetts Health Connector Begins Open Enrollment

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BOSTON — The Massachusetts Health Connector has started open enrollment for 2018, providing members and new applicants the opportunity to pick a health insurance plan for the New Year, and officially kicking off a full-scale, statewide outreach and education campaign.

Massachusetts has the highest insured rate in the country, with 97.5 percent of the state's residents covered according to the U.S. Census. The lead up to Open Enrollment has created national concern about outreach activities, particularly in states that are part of the federal government Exchange. Consistent with the commonwealth's mission to support access to affordable health coverage for everyone, the campaign emphasizes outreach and visibility in communities with higher uninsured rates.

"Massachusetts is a leader in coverage and we remain committed to reaching everyone and providing access to health care to everyone," said Louis Gutierrez, the executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector. "Through our Navigators, community-based outreach, enrollment events and other methods, we are bringing the same energy to Open Enrollment as we have in past years."

Open Enrollment starts on Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 23, 2018, longer than the Nov. 1-Dec. 15 federal deadline, and is consistent with past Massachusetts Open Enrollment periods. The Health Connector is planning a number of other outreach and enrollment support activities this year that mirrors the Exchange’s past commitment to comprehensive Open Enrollment activities.

· The Health Connector will fully fund the second year of its two-year grant cycle commitment to Navigators, supporting 16 agencies across the state through $1.6 million funding, consistent with 2016-17 funding of the program. Navigators submitted applications covering more than 9,000 people during 2017 Open Enrollment and helped more than 5,000 renew coverage. Members and applicants can search for local Navigators at the Health Connector website.

· The Health Connector will continue to outreach communities with higher rates of uninsured, similarly to last year. Messages will be delivered around the state in seven languages, with more nearly 1,000 window signs distributed to local businesses and organizations, more than 18,000 information cards distributed to potential members, and events held around the state to direct people to enrollment support services.

· Customer service operations will be staffed at traditional Open Enrollment levels.

· The Health Connector continues to invest in new and stronger IT services, including a new payment portal, which makes it easier for members to manage accounts, review notices and pay bills. The new portal also allows members to choose to go paperless when receiving information from the Health Connector. The Health Connector has not scheduled any system downtime during Open Enrollment.

· Creating a better Exchange in the long-term through smart policy decisions and initiatives remains a priority. Massachusetts continues to implement its individual mandate and penalty, and regularly submits requests to the federal government for flexibility to continue to innovate and shape the Health Connector to best serve Massachusetts residents.

Along with encouraging enrollment by those without coverage, the Health Connector will also be focusing member communications on two groups of members who should use Open Enrollment as an opportunity to shop for new plans.

One group is current ConnectorCare members who have redetermined into unsubsidized coverage for 2018. Those approximately 55,000 members are encourage to update their account or take other action to potentially return to ConnectorCare. The other group is 33,000 current unsubsidized members who are exposed to premiums that are on average 26 percent higher than 2017 after action taken by the federal government last month to stop some payments to carriers. Those members are encouraged to shop for a new plan on the Health Connector or find their current plan directly through their carrier at a lower 2018 premium.

The Health Connector currently serves more than 255,000 individuals with health insurance, and another 6,000 who get their health insurance through their company and the Health Connector’s small-group platform. About 73,000 people receive dental insurance through the Exchange. New applicants and renewing members can go to the Health Connector's website starting Nov. 1 to secure coverage for next year.


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Pittsfield Receives Contingency Funds For Dam Removal

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council accepted a $113,316.12 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to go toward the demolition of the Mill Street dam.
Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath told the council Tuesday that the grant funds will go toward the dam removal contingency but that there is still a ways to go to hit the 10 percent contingency goal.
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