By Deborah Allard, Herald News Staff Reporter
FALL RIVER — Massachusetts Health Connector is gearing up for the start of open enrollment and a stay covered campaign to make sure everyone in the Commonwealth has and keeps quality health insurance.
Open enrollment runs from Nov. 1, 2018 to Jan. 23, 2019. That’s when individuals and families without coverage can sign up for health insurance plans, get information about their current plan, or shop and switch plans.
“We’re getting ready to go,” said Jason Lefferts, Health Connector director of Communications.
HealthFirst Family Care Center, 387 Quarry St., will function as a walk-in site as it had a couple of years ago, where navigators can help people file insurance applications and help them compare plans.
“They were great partners then and we’re excited to be back,” Lefferts said.
Lefferts visited HealthFirst on Tuesday to remind people to start thinking about health insurance for next year.
State Rep. Paul Schmid was also on site, as were representatives from the offices of State Rep. Alan Silvia, State Rep. Carole Fiola and State Sen. Michael Rodrigues.
Fanny Tchorz, HealthFirst director of Interpreting Services and Community Initiatives, said the community clinic will have three full-time and one part-time navigators on site.
Navigators are fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and Cape Verde Creole. There are also professional medical interpreters on staff to assist people who speak virtually all languages.
In the state of Massachusetts, just 3 percent of the population is without health insurance making it the highest insured state in the country. The SouthCoast, however, sees a greater rate of uninsured with 4.3 percent, and even higher in Fall River at 5.9 percent.
Lefferts said the goal is to sign up as many people as possible.
While federal penalties for not having health insurance will expire in 2019, the state of Massachusetts will continue to require that all residents are insured. Those without health insurance in 2019 could pay from $200 to $1,000 in penalties when completing their tax returns in 2020.
Massachusetts Health Connector offers health and dental coverage to residents who do not qualify for employer paid health insurance, are self-employed, unemployed, temporary workers, part-time workers, students or others. The cost, sometimes at little to no expense, is based on income.
Health Connector will offer 57 plans from nine carriers.
Schmid said choosing a plan can be confusing at times, but help is available.
“Most people in Massachusetts are already signed up,” Schmid said. “For those few (who are not), it’s so easy to do that by coming here.”
Email Deborah Allard at firstname.lastname@example.org