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Caroling? No, Canvassing – for a Healthy New Year

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Monday, December 22, 2014   

BOSTON - People went door to door all over Massachusetts this weekend, and not all of them were singing Christmas carols. Many were alerting folks to upcoming deadlines for signing up for health insurance. It was part of an effort to knock on 200,000 doors during open enrollment.

Volunteers from several groups, including Health Care For All and the Health Connector, focused on finding people who need to select a plan and make a payment before tomorrow to stay covered on Jan. 1, 2015. Jean Yang, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector, explains...

"If you missed the upcoming deadline, which is Tuesday, you can only apply for Health Connector coverage that starts February first," Yang says.

There were "good tidings" last week, as the Health Policy Commission reported healthcare spending is slowing in the Commonwealth. From 2009 to 2013, Massachusetts spending grew less than the U.S. rate. Yang, a member of the Commission, says overall, Massachusetts still continues to be among the highest-cost states in the country.

Yang says much remains to be done.

"Much as the trend is slowing down, we continue to be at the very, very high place in terms of overall absolute level of healthcare spending," she says. "Healthcare is still extremely expensive in Massachusetts. We have to not only slow it down, but also basically make it lower."

Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, emphasizes that if you're enrolled in a 2014 Marketplace plan, the mid-February open enrollment deadline is not the one that matters.

"For some people in Massachusetts, their coverage actually ends January first and it's vitally important they take action to sign up for health insurance so they don't have any gap in care or coverage," she says.

Slemmer says 97 percent of Commonwealth residents have coverage and advocates are working hard to get that to 100 percent.

Yang says signing up online should be easier than a year ago, when computer glitches plagued both Commonwealth and U.S. government web sites.

"People should try to do the online application as much as possible because there is unlimited capacity there," she says. "At least that is how it seems because the performance of the website is just extremely strong."

Options include walk-in centers and a call-in center. (HCFA has a Helpline: 1-800-272-4232)


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