Transcript of the Q&A Mandatory Health Insurance November 8, 2007
This is the log of the live chat today with questions and answers about mandatory health insurance in Massachusetts. You can add comments or questions at the end of the transcript.
12:55 Spine is my nickname I cannot listen to the program, but I have a problem and would like to know who to call. I haven't had good luck so far with the government numbers I've called so far.
12:55 marthabebinger Hi Spine - two suggestions:
12:55 marthabebinger 1) email@example.com
2) the Health Care For All help line, 1-800-272-4232
12:57 marthabebinger If you don't get what you need, post a response back on the blog with your e-mail and I'll get in touch, Martha
12:59 Norma hello martha and all are we starting? thank you for this chat room to answer questions.
12:59 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Hello, everyone. My name is Kate Bicego and I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.
12:59 marthabebinger Hi Norma - nice to hear from you as always. What's your question?
12:59 guest460941 i have the pool and i just got a notice in the mail that i should enroll in commcare what should i do?
13:00 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager guest460941 - You will lose your pool coverage in 60 days from the date of the notice that you received. It is important that you call Commonwealth Care to enroll into a plan as soon as possible. You should call 1-------------.
13:01 guest83689 hello i am living mostly overseas but dont yet have a permanent address there. have not worked here since the end of april, and cant afford insurance, as i am not getting paid overseas yet. do i apply for mass health or get a waiver?
13:01 guest989315 Hi Guest 460941: You can also get application materials online at
13:01 Norma I can't afford the insurance but I find the waiver very intrusive.
13:02 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Will you be filing taxes in MA, guest83689?
13:02 guest83689 yes i will
13:03 guest83689 i have made about 5 thousand this year
13:03 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Just to clarify, the guest with the pool does not need to fill out an application. She just needs to call to enroll into a plan or request an enrollment packet.
13:04 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Guest83689 - you can request a certificate of exemption now or explain your situation on your tax return.
13:05 marthabebinger Dear Spine - please let us know, at your convenience, which numbers you tried and what happened when you called.
13:05 guest83689 where do you request a certificate of exemption?
13:05 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager You can request the certificate through the Connector directly.
13:06 guest83689 will i have to prove that i am living abroad?
13:06 guest989315 Hi Guest 83689. I would suggest applying for insurance, either through MassHealth or Commonwealth Care, rather than initially apply for a waiver. You are much better off with insurance than without it.
13:06 guest83689 that is true
13:06 guest83689 thanks
13:07 guest83689 what is the difference between the two?
13:07 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Do you have a mailing address here in the state, guest989315?
13:08 guest619090 I currently have no income, but will not apply for coverage until the exact terms of the "recovery from estate" clause are made clear. I have visions of my retirement savings and equity on my home slowly being drained away to an isurance company.
13:09 LAT what is the recovery from estate clause all about? Could someone explain?
13:10 guest83689 does mass health, once you get it, apply overseas and in other states?
13:10 guest83689 or can u only use it in massachusetts?
13:10 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager The recovery estate clause only applies to Medicaid applicants that use Medicaid for long term care services and do not have a will in place.
13:11 commonhealth guest989315 is **** Powers from the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority
13:11 guest5547219 hello
13:11 Norma that's not true, the application states at "age 55 or older if I die Massachusetts can take my assetts"
13:11 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager MassHealth, the state's Medicaid coverage, will only cover its members for emergencies out of state.
13:12 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager This is the same for Commonwealth Care.
13:12 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager If you need coverage overseas, you should look into traveller's insurance.
13:13 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Norma - there are exceptions to the estate clause which I have mentioned. Please feel free to contact one of our Helpline Counselors at 1-800-272-4232 for additional information.
13:13 Rob B I'm confused about the sign up deadline. is it Dec 1 or Dec 31? can't i just wait until Dec 31?
13:13 MrBillG59 Making health insurance mandatory doesn't make it affordable. What's the plan to make it affordable to self-employed, low-income people such as myself?
13:15 guest83689 when you say mass health covers only emergencies out of state, does that apply to overseas emergencies as well?
13:15 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager go from the 1st to the last day of the motnh.
13:15 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Excuse me.
13:16 Norma good questionMrBillG59 I want to know that also
13:17 LAT I have a son who is on his own. He currently works in a seasonal restaurant which will be closing on Dec 31st until June. His income is low, and it varies quite a bit since he is periodically out of work. How is his assistance figured?
13:18 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Rob B ... you should get insurance by Nov. 15. That guarantees you will have coverage by Dec. 1. If you purchase after Nov. 15, your coverage probably won't take effect until Jan. 1.
13:18 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager MassHealth and Commonwealth Care do not cover emergencies overseas. If you are overseas, you can look into traveller's insurance.
13:20 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi LAT. His gross annual income is what would be factored.
13:20 Rob B I'm covered by the pool until Jan 1?
13:20 guest83689 what exactly counts as an emergency; say i have a a terrible ear infection that started while i was in california for two weeks, would that be covered?
13:21 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Rob B - You are covered by the pool for 60 days from the date that you receive the notice from the MassHealth Enrollment Center.
13:21 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Rob B. The pool is not considered insurance.
13:21 MrBillG59 I'm sure there are some wonderful plans out there with great coverage for a relatively high price, can you tell us what are the cheapest plans available and what do they cost?
13:22 LAT Thank you Richard. Is gross income figured by calendar year or past 12 months from the date of application? If the person is not employed, is that at all considered?
13:22 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Gues83689 - You would have to contact MassHealth to find out what specific ailments would be considered an emergency.
13:22 H Reform Groupy Also, the Pool only covers hospital care and Community Health Centers. So insurance is much better, since you can see more doctors, get drugs at a pharmacy, and get more benefits
13:23 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager MrBillG59 - There is a great resource online provided by the Connector at www.mahealthconnector.orgwhich will allow you to find the plans and prices of all of the available options in your area.
13:23 guest83689 do they have terms and conditions available online to read through?
13:23 guest83689 mass health i mean
13:24 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager I would recommend contacting MassHealth directly at 1-800-272-4232 to find answers to all of your MassHealth questions, guest83689.
13:24 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Guest 83689. Terms and conditions for all plans are on the Connector website,
13:25 Rob B I'm very healthy and haven't needed to see a doc for years...(had pnemonia about 3 yrs ago and went to er.) very expensive to buy this insurance when i don't need it yet. would rather wait until i have to...may be able to save more...
13:25 commonhealth From Harry Castleman:: The $219 loss-of-deduction penalty this year for not having health insurance by 12/32/07 comes 'due' next April at tax time, correct? OK, then how and when are the more severe penalties that start in 2008 assessed?
13:26 commonhealth From Harry Castleman: I have read that they will be assessed monthly starting in January, but will they be actually due in April, 2009?
13:26 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi RobB, I hope your lucks holds out
13:27 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Rob B - Thanks for your questions. If there is an affordable option available to you, you must secure health insurance by the 31st of December or be subject to the tax penalty.
13:27 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Harry, All of your information is correct. You pay for either year when you file your taxes for that year.
13:28 selfemployedartist i'm overwhelmed and just starting to learn about all of this. Where is a good place to start reading to understand the program?
13:29 Norma why does the commonwealth connector and health care for all find it neccessary to keep threatening us with the penalities? instead of finding true affordable health plans.
13:29 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi selfemployedartist ...
13:29 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Selfemployedartist - You should contact one of our Helpline Counselors at 1-800-272-4232 to learn about all of your health insurance options.
13:29 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Or
13:30 Dan G ok so the answer is "talk to the DOR" regarding how to prove that you have health insurance from an out of state provider. Interestingly, as of last month, they have no idea. Can't wait for tax time
13:30 Dan G by eall
13:30 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Norma, We have actually talked a lot about both. We don't like talking about the penalties, but we have a responsibility to inform the public.
13:30 H Reform Groupy Harry, the penalties for 2008 (you pay in your April 2009 taxes) haven't been set yet. The law says the penalites can be up to half the cost of the cheapest plan available to you. But they may be less.
13:30 guest412541 hello
13:31 marthabebinger Harry - for the 2008 year, the penalty will be half the cost of the lowest priced plan. There may be some adjustments to the penalty plan soon...we'll post those on the blog when they are out.
13:31 guest748234 The penalties are in place in order to have the highest participation possible. The more people participate, the larger the risk pool, the lower the rates for everyone. Without penalties, people have not signed up.
13:31 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Health Care for All has a responsibility as an advocacy organization, to ensure that all residents understand the health reform law, that includes the unfortunate tax penalties.
13:31 MrBillG59 That's still cheaper than insurance!
13:32 Norma it is very mean spirited I feel bad enough that I cannot afford the insurance and now I will be penalized on top of that.
13:32 angelita ne one older than 16?
13:32 guest748234 Insurance is cheaper than medical bills
13:32 Rob B i agree that everyone should participate, but there doesn't seem to be a level playing field
13:33 H Reform Groupy The requirement to have insurance if it's affordable applies to people 18 years and older
13:34 angelita does ne one talk in here?
13:35 MrBillG59 What candidates are promoting a universal Medicare-like plan that we can vote for next time around?
13:36 marthabebinger Dan G or "d" - to clarify, are you saying that you have coverage from an out of state insurance co., and you aren't sure how to prove that? Are you also saying that you asked DOR and they couldn't offer any advice?
13:37 MrBillG59 Are the moderators off-line? There have been lots of questions posed, but no answers for a while...
13:37 Dan G Yes thats exactly correct MB.
13:37 muriel muriel
13:37 guest4766218 ho is dan
13:37 piwislucan not manuel
13:38 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager I am here and online ready to answer your questions.
13:38 piwislucan yesca
13:38 Richard Powers, Health Connector Still here, too.
13:38 piwislucan what?
13:38 guest401250 MRBillG59:
has a great comparison of presidential candidates' health plans
13:38 piwislucan yes
13:38 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Thanks, guest401250!
13:38 muriel my aunt is 94 a Christian Scientist does not mant health care and pays taxes, is on regular medicare. What are we required to do.
13:39 MrBillG59 Thanks guest401250, that's valuable information.
13:39 guest401250 You are very welcome.
13:39 marthabebinger Mr Bill - the Kaiser Family Foundation has a website that compares the candidates coverage plans.
13:39 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Muriel - your aunt should circle yes on line 4A on her tax return. She will be fine so long as she has not used a medical services in 2007.
13:39 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Muriel, There are religious exemptions granted under the law ... also, she is all set since she is on Medicare.
13:40 MrBillG59 How about Gubernatorial and state office candidates?
13:40 guest83689 how can you prove what religion you are
13:41 muriel Thank you - for the info, it sets our mind at rest.
13:41 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Glad to help, Muriel.
13:41 selfemployedartist How do I decide between Commonwealth Care and Cwealth Choice?
13:42 NENELINDO HOLA ALGUNA NENA
13:42 guest748234 Commonwealth Care is subsidized so you qualify for it. Commonwealth Choice is open so you can choose it.
13:43 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Only you can make the choice about which health insurance is best for you. You must meet certain guidelines to qualify for subsidized coverage through the Commonwealth Care program.
13:43 guest83689 does that mean commonwealth choice is better?
13:43 Richard Powers, Health Connector Higuest83689, Both are great plans, but you decide which is best for you.
13:43 selfemployedartist How do I see side-by-side comparisons of the plans?
13:44 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi selfemployedartis,
13:44 guest83689 what is the difference between mass health and commonwealth care?
13:46 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager It depends which MassHealth Program you have. There are several MassHealth programs under the MassHealth umbrella.
13:47 guest83689 and the one you get depends on what mass health decides as per your application details?
13:47 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Yes. Only MassHealth can determine your eligibility for all of the MassHealth programs, as well as Commonwealth Care.
13:47 H Reform Groupy Both MassHealth and Commonwealth Care provide comprehensive coverage. There is one application for both programs, and they will put you in the program with the most benefits with the least cost.
13:47 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager And the Health Safety Net (the pool/UCP/free care).
13:48 guest83689 thanks that clears things up a bit
13:48 commonhealth From Beth Vance: Why does the Connector use highly outdated and unreasonable Federal Poverty Line parameters to gauge “affordability” when anyone living in this state knows what he cost of living really is?
13:49 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Thank you for asking, guest83689!
13:49 MrBillG59 Can we get that one application from: www.mahealthconnector.org
13:49 selfemployedartist Does Commonwealth Care allow us to pick any doctor or is there a defined list?
13:49 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Commonwealth, FPL is what we are authorized to use under the law. With that said, other factors will certainly be taken into consideration when people file appeals.
13:49 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Beth - The Federal Government determines the Federal Poverty Levels each year.
13:50 H Reform Groupy Everyone knows the federal poverty line doesn't reflect the cost of living in Massachusetts. The subsidies in health reform go up to 3 times the poverty line, in order to reflect our cost of living
13:50 guest83689 what is the federal poverty line for one person?
13:51 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager selfemployedartist - the health plans do require that you go to a doctor within their network. Ideally, you can pick a plan that you doctor accepts.
13:51 Richard Powers, Health Connector hi guest 83689 ... 100 percent is 10,210
13:51 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager $851/month.
13:51 Lina what is the fed poverty line for a married couple?
13:51 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager That is gross income, before deductions.
13:51 selfemployedartist Does gross annual income include child support payments?
13:51 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Selfemployedartist - yes.
13:52 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Lina - $1,141/month gross income. $13,692/annually.
13:52 MrBillG59 Where can we get that single application for all the MA plans?
13:52 commonhealth Also from Beth Vance: Why has the Connector made such meager effort to publicize this? ........cont
13:52 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Remember, the income limit for Commonwealth Care is 3 times the FPL.
13:52 guest83689 100 percent means u are exactly on the poverty line?
13:53 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Yes, guest83689.
13:53 commonhealth Beth Vance:Not everyone can or cares to watch the Red Sox, you know. There has been absolutely NOTHING in my local newspaper (The Patriot Ledger) to give information. ....cont
13:53 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager According to the Federal Government.
13:53 commonhealth beth vance: The first postcard looked like junk mail - the second gives little time to secure acceptable insurance. Where did the $4,000,000 for PR and marketing go?
13:53 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Beth, Julie Jette has written extensively about healthcare reform in the Patriot Ledger.
13:54 MrBillG59 Where can we get the single application for all these MA plans?
13:55 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager To fill out an MBR by telephone, please contact one of our Helpline Counselors at Health Care for All at 1------------.
13:55 MrBillG59 Thank You!
13:55 H Reform Groupy Online it's at
13:55 Richard Powers, Health Connector Mr. Bill, There is one application for CommCare. It is on our website. You can also apply for CommChoice on our website.
13:55 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager You can also go to your local Community Health Center or Public Hospital. Your other option is to contact MassHealth directly.
13:55 selfemployedartist I have insurance now but will lose it in the near future. How can I find out what plans I qualify for without waiting until I'm uninsured?
13:56 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi selfemployed artist, Visit our website or call our toll-free number, 1-877-MA-ENROLL
13:56 commonhealth from Ann MaloneQuestion - Why doesn’t the “affordability definition” factor in co-pays and deductibles? This facet of the mandate is unethical and unworkable for many of my patients who already struggle to pay the bills.
13:58 guest366740 Just visiting
13:58 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Ann, I believe the hardship waiver process captures your concerns.
13:58 guest366740 just visiting
13:59 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Hello Guest366740, do you have any questions?
13:59 commonhealth Another question from Beth Vance: What is being done to provide more primary care doctors so that people can actually use this insurance?
14:00 guest401250 How do you get a hardship waiver?
14:00 Richard Powers, Health Connector The administration has proposed a few incentives, including a loan forgiveness program.
14:00 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Guest401250 - you should contact 1------------- to request a hardship waiver form.
14:01 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi Guest 401250. There is also quite a bit of info, including an affordability tool, on the Connector website.
14:01 guest401250 thank you
14:02 MrBillG59 Can you give us a quick explanation about the difference between Richard Powers' and Kate Bicego's organizations roles?
14:02 RJ When will Commonwealth Choice be available for contributing employers?
14:02 Richard Powers, Health Connector The Connector Authority is one of the 11 or so state agencies who have a responsibility to implement portions of the healthcare reform law.
14:03 selfemployedartist I'm looking on web site and can't find affordability tool. Can you tell me what section that's in?
14:03 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi RJ, We hope to have that up and running by the summer.
14:03 RJ What Month are you targeting?
14:04 Richard Powers, Health Connector Hi selfemployed artist ... click on Indiivuals and Families link and then scroll down that page.
14:05 MrBillG59 Can Kate explain Healthcare for All's role?
14:05 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Health Care for All is a consumer-based health advocacy organization, Mister Bill.
14:05 MrBillG59 Thank You!
14:05 selfemployedartist Great. Thanks for all your help today.
14:05 Richard Powers, Health Connector RJ, Summer is best I can tell you right now. Hopefully, earlier rather than later.
14:05 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Here at the Helpline, we let people know what their health insurance options are and help them to apply for the state options via telephone if they would like assistance.
14:06 marthabebinger Thanks so much to everyone who posted questions, to Richard Powers and Kate Bicego for your answers and to Jesse Costa at WBUR for making this work.
14:06 guest324980 Will the COnnector be relesaing enrollment numbers in the various plan types in NOV? Last data came out in earlier part of Oct.
14:06 MrBillG59 I appreciate the opportunity this forum provided. I've really learned a lot of things that I needed to know but didn't.
14:06 marthabebinger If you want to continue to post comments in this window, you can, but Richard and Kate are going back to their real jobs. Best, Martha Bebinger
14:06 Richard Powers, Health Connector Eric Dahlberg and I would like to thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. We hope we've been helpful and look forward to doing this again.
14:06 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager Thanks to you, Martha for giving us the opportunity.
14:07 Kate Bicego - Health Care for All Helpline Manager And to all of you for your questions.
This program aired on November 8, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.