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Consumer Alert

Mass. Health Connector offering guidance with new law

Being a consumer in Massachusetts can be unlike the experience anywhere else. We’ve got all sorts of laws — good as well as quirky. So it stands to reason that as the first state in the country with its own health care insurance exchange, the Massachusetts Health Connector, there might be some confusion.

We’re about two weeks away from the first stage of the new federal health care law reaching consumers. And while the law is similar to what we have in Massachusetts, it isn’t the same. The result is going to be some changes that the quarter-million consumers using the Connector are going to have deal with.

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Nationally, there have been some well-publicized scams tied to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), so the folks at the Connector want people to know they are conducting a legitimate education campaign to help Massachusetts residents sort out the coming changes. That involves letters, e-mails, robocalls, and phone calls. “If consumers get a call or e-mail from us and are unsure if they are getting a legitimate call, we strongly encourage them to go to our website or call our customer service number on their own,” Connector spokesman Jason Lefferts said.

The website is mahealthconnector.org, and the phone number is 877-MA-ENROLL.

So far, it appears the changes are largely to the benefit of those who use the system, mainly folks who don’t receive insurance through an employer. Expect to see more choices, more insurance carriers, dental coverage, and a higher income figure to qualify for subsidies.

Another big change is a shift in the open enrollment period, which starts Oct. 1 and runs through March 31. What that means is that those who recently picked a policy will have to once again make a selection before the end of March and re-enroll. (Some will have a Jan. 1 start date for their new policies.)

“Members will be able to find the same kinds of coverage, maybe even better coverage, but it will be in a slightly different plan,” Lefferts said.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.
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