As MassHealth drops people, the state’s Health Connector has record volume of new sign-ups

With less than two weeks remaining in its open enrollment period, the state’s health insurance marketplace has notched a record volume of people signing up for coverage.

Nearly 50,000 people have newly enrolled in plans available through the Massachusetts Health Connector since open enrollment began in November, Executive Director Audrey Morse Gasteier said Thursday. Since last January, she said, enrollment has climbed by 27 percent at the Connector, which offers plans for individuals, families and businesses through major health and dental insurance providers.

The increases come as MassHealth officials continue their effort to reassess eligibility for 2.4 million members. MassHealth has dropped about 203,000 members from its rolls in the first seven months of the eligibility redetermination process.

“We continue to reach and cover people who are found ineligible for MassHealth during the redetermination process and now need new coverage,” Morse Gasteier said during a virtual Connector Board meeting. “So far, over 75,000 of these residents have transitioned into Health Connector coverage. We expect to continue to work very closely with MassHealth and Health Care For All and continue our full-throated outreach efforts.”

That 75,000 figure translates into 23 percent of people who have qualified for Health Connector plans after being deemed ineligible for MassHealth, said Marissa Woltmann, the marketplace’s chief of policy.

“We do see a sizable contingent, another 30,000, who have reported on their application that they have other coverage or access to other coverage,” Woltmann said. “We think that there’s another bucket of individuals who maybe have that coverage or access but just didn’t report it to us. We are continuing to look for ways to learn more about those who aren’t enrolling with us even though they’re eligible to do so.”

Health insurance is mandatory in Massachusetts and most people get it through their employers or state government programs. The Connector Authority was established in 2006. People who are not eligible to receive MassHealth coverage may obtain health insurance through the Connector, which operates programs that offer subsidized and unsubsidized assistance to help people get insurance.

Woltmann said officials are waiting to see broader market data that could show an increase in employer-sponsored coverage. The Health Connector also plans to survey people who are eligible for coverage but aren’t enrolling, she said.

The Connector counts total non-group enrollment at about 272,300 as of this month, compared to 250,580 in January 2018.

More than 44,000 people are newly enrolled in ConnectorCare, which Morse Gasteier attributed to a two-year pilot program approved in the fiscal 2024 budget that expanded the income eligibility limits to people who are between 300 to 500 percent of the federal poverty levels. She said that includes more than 37,000 people who were already enrolled in Health Connector coverage but became newly eligible for ConnectorCare, plus nearly 7,000 people newly enrolled in Health Connector coverage who qualify for the program.

Open enrollment at the Health Connector closes on Jan. 23. But after that date, officials will offer special enrollment options for people who lose their MassHealth coverage, Woltmann said.

The Health Connector intends to ramp up outreach efforts in the final open enrollment stretch.

“We will continue to target eligible but unenrolled applicants, including those who are no longer eligible for MassHealth and not enrolled in Health Connector coverage through a variety of communications types,” said Kirsten Blocker, director of content strategy and marketing at the Health Connector. “For 2023 members, the bulk of communications work is completed with auto-enrollments and other changes made. Tightening our focus on the unenrolled applicants over the next few weeks is really our goal.”

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Massachusetts Health Connector open enrollment ends Jan. 23

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