If you're among the 121,000 Massachusetts residents who buy their own health insurance, take heed. Today is the final day of the open enrollment period mandated by a state law passed last year — meaning that if you want to shop around and compare options while you can, you should head right over to the "Connector" now. (Actually, you have until midnight if you do it online, but if you're going to need the customer service line, it's only open until 5 p.m. at 1-877-623-6765).
The Connector is the agency that helps Massachusetts residents shop for and obtain our (mandatory) insurance, but this deadline is not just for people who buy their health insurance through the Connector. It's for anyone who gets health insurance on their own rather than from an employer or a public program like MassHealth. If that's you, you should know that if you don't switch plans now, you're stuck with your current plan until the next open enrollment period next July. That is, even if your health insurance contract expires, your only option is to continue the same plan with the same health insurer for the time being.
Seems oddly inflexible, but the Connector explains:
The open enrollment period was created by 2010 cost containment legislation, Chapter 288, after insurance carriers complained that too many people were signing up for coverage when they required expensive medical services, then dropping it.
If you're about to go shop, check out a new feature on the Connector's health information portal: The ability to plug in a doctor or hospital's name and find plans that include them. The site also includes the ability to compare different plans side-by-side simply — a feature that states around the country will be adopting as part of federal health reform.
Readers, please let us know how your insurance-shopping goes — and please help spread word of the deadline to people who need to know. Connector chief Glen Shor explains more here:
This program aired on August 15, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.