Business & Tech

Number of sign-ups on state’s Health Connector holds steady

Louis Gutierrez, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector.
Handout
Louis Gutierrez, executive director of the Massachusetts Health Connector.

The number of people buying health coverage through the state’s insurance exchange remained steady this year, despite a chaotic start to the open-enrollment period.

Officials at the Massachusetts Health Connector said Thursday that 252,786 residents signed up for 2018 coverage, about 6,000 more than last year.

Last fall, Connector officials approved sharply higher premium increases for popular mid-level health plans after the White House decided to halt federal payments that help subsidize coverage for lower-income Americans.

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Premiums for these plans are rising about 24 percent on average, to make up for the loss of federal subsidies. Given the sharp increase, officials encouraged members to shop around for more affordable plans — even if that meant leaving the Connector.

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Of the more than 70,000 members who faced big premium increases, about 32,000 found a more affordable plan on the Connector, and about 19,000 stayed in the same coverage plan and will have to pay the big increases.

About 20,000 people left the exchange so they could obtain coverage directly from an insurer, through a spouse, or for other reasons.

“Our goal every open-enrollment is to expand access to affordable coverage to people who do not have health insurance, and to ensure that our current members are able to maintain quality coverage that best suits their needs,” Louis Gutierrez, executive director of the Connector, said in a statement. “We were able to not only help thousands of people get new health insurance through the Health Connector, but also help tens of thousands of others maintain coverage, even if it was off-exchange.”

Priyanka Dayal McCluskey can be reached at priyanka.mccluskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @priyanka_dayal.