News on the state's largest health insurers; the effects of health care reform on coverage; rising premium costs.


Trouble With State Health Connector’s Call Centers Frustrates Insurance Seekers

Update at 9:17 p.m.: Gov. Charlie Baker has extended the deadline for signing up for coverage:

Original post:

Frustration with the state’s Health Connector is mounting.

Today (Friday) is the deadline for coverage that begins Feb. 1, but an untold number of residents say they’ve hit roadblocks while trying to enroll and pay for a plan. The problem at this stage is not so much the new website — it’s the call centers. Continue reading


Gov. Baker Names 2 Top State Health Care Officials

Gov. Charlie Baker has tapped two top health care officials.

Baker announced Thursday that Louis Gutierrez will serve as executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, which oversees the state’s health insurance marketplace and website.

Baker also appointed Daniel Tsai as assistant secretary for MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program.

Continue reading

Trying To Turn Up Heat On Health Cost Control In Mass.

Updated Jan. 17, 2015, 4:15 p.m.

BOSTON — In 2012, Massachusetts became the first state in the country to set a goal to cut health care spending.

In 2013, the state beat the goal. Spending grew 2.3 percent, well below the gross state product (GSP), 3.6 percent.

Now, at the start of 2015, the state’s largest employer group says good, time to set a more aggressive goal.

We should “congratulate ourselves for being successful in year one,” says Rick Lord, president and CEO at Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), and “set a target that’s more aggressive.”

AIM is backing legislation filed by House Minority Leader Brad Jones that would lower the benchmark from straight GSP to GSP minus 2 points starting next year and continuing through 2022. After that, the cap would go back to even with GSP.

Continue reading

Health Connector Head Will Step Down

The head of the Massachusetts Health Connector is stepping down.

Jean Yang, the Connector’s executive director, will depart the agency next Friday, it announced.

Yang took over the post in January 2013. She oversaw the problematic launch in October 2013 of the Connector’s new website, in conjunction with the federal Affordable Care Act.

“We faced difficult challenges but more people have insurance today and more people can get help paying for that insurance than before the ACA, and that is what matters,” Yang said in a statement Tuesday.

Maydad Cohen, who oversaw the site’s relaunch in November 2014 as special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick, will temporarily fill in at the Connector until the Baker administration names a permanent replacement.

“Jean was an instrumental part of the team that re-launched a working website on Nov. 15,” Cohen said in the same statement.


Nearly 50,000 Sign Up And Pay For Health Coverage

Nearly 50,000 Massachusetts residents have signed up for an insurance plan through the state’s Health Connector and made their first month’s payment.

“That’s in addition to the 131,342 determined to be eligible and enrolled in MassHealth,” said Maydad Cohen, special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick who is running the website project, “and they accessed it through a rebuilt website that does what it’s supposed to do.”

As of Sunday night, Health Connector officials said about 49,900 residents had taken the steps needed to guarantee they have coverage on Jan. 1, the Associated Press reports.

Though the original enrollment deadline was Dec. 23, Connector officials gave thousands of people who had chosen a plan, but not yet paid for it, until Sunday to do so.

There have been recent glitches in the Connector’s website, including a third-party payment system that went offline for hours on Sunday for the second time in two weeks.

Otherwise, officials say the revamped website has been operating without major glitches since it was launched Nov. 15, replacing one that was hobbled by technical problems.

The Connector will hold “enrollment fairs” around the state ahead of the Jan. 23 application deadline for coverage starting in February.


State Reports 40,000 Health Connector Signups By Deadline

Massachusetts officials say about 40,000 people met a deadline for enrolling through the state’s Health Connector for insurance starting on Jan. 1.

The enrollment deadline was Tuesday, though the state gave people who have selected a health care plan but not yet paid their first month’s premium an extension until Sunday to do so.

In addition to the 40,065 who have signed up and paid, another 34,138 have selected plans but not made payments. A spokeswoman for the Connector says some have transitional coverage that runs through January, so may not be required to pay by Jan. 1 to avoid a gap in coverage.

Officials say nearly 235,000 people have determined their eligibility for coverage under the Affordable Care act since the state’s revamped website launched on Nov. 15.


Health Connector Site Handles Last-Minute Signee Load

Massachusetts residents signing up for health plans endured hour-long waits over the phone ahead of Wednesday’s midnight deadline.

But online, the state’s website handled the last-minute load.

The revamped Health Connector website did not suffer the same outages and delays as last year. Thousands of people without insurance through their employers were able to sign up for health plans during the day. To ease the demand on the call center, Connector official Maydad Cohen extended the deadline to pay for those plans.

“Given the heavy interest in signing up for January 1 coverage, we will accept online and paper payments through Sunday, December 28,” he said.

The Health Connector call center will be open on Sunday to help those who did enroll by yesterday’s deadline, but still have to set up payment for their health insurance.


Health Connector Extends Payment Deadline

Massachusetts residents signing up for health insurance through the state have a few more days to make their first payment, but must still enroll before midnight tonight to guarantee their coverage begins Jan. 1.

State officials behind the Health Connector website say it has been working well as thousands use it to sign up ahead of Tuesday’s midnight enrollment deadline, but phone wait times have been about an hour. To ease the crush, Connector official Maydad Cohen is extending the payment deadline until Sunday.

“I want to be very clear here: consumers must still select and check out a plan by midnight tonight, Dec. 23,” Cohen said.

The Health Connector call center will be open on Sunday to help those taking advantage of the deadline extension for payments.


Health Connector: Insurance Signups Up, But Many Unpaid

The Massachusetts Health Connector is preparing for a signup surge as the state’s deadline for enrolling in 2015 insurance coverage approaches.

The agency says more than 100,000 residents who must pay some or all of their premiums have registered online, but so far, only 18 percent have chosen a plan and paid.

Still, those 18,000 people are double the number who had paid a week ago.

The deadline is Tuesday for those who want to be covered on the first of the year. The site’s director, Maydad Cohen, is urging residents to take action this weekend.

“Because we expect high, high volumes Monday and Tuesday,” Cohen said. “High volume typically results in longer wait times. And we do want to make sure people can access health insurance, and make sure that they pick and pay for that plan.”

The Connector office will be open during the day for residents who do not have access to a computer.


Mass. Officials Say Most Have Yet To Pay For Health Plans

State officials say about 150,000 people have determined eligibility for insurance plans on the state’s overhauled Health Connector website. But less than 1 percent has paid for 2015 coverage with a deadline fast approaching.

The connector rolled out its new website on Nov. 15 to replace the one that was crippled by technical problems, forcing hundreds of thousands of people into temporary Medicaid coverage.

Residents eligible to buy insurance through the connector have until Dec. 23 to make their first payment. The Boston Globe reports that few have sent checks so far, but state officials aren’t worried because people historically wait until the last week to pay.

The head of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans has expressed concern about the low enrollment and the prospect of many people going uninsured.