Massachusetts Residents Seeking Information On Subsidized Health Insurance Plan
The number of Massachusetts residents seeking information about thestate's new subsidized health insurance plan is "overwhelming" the callcenter set up to help them, and the volume of calls is "expected tosoar over the next eight weeks as people rush to get insurance so theycan avoid a tax penalty," the Boston Globe reports. Under state law, most Massachusetts residents must obtain health coverage by Dec. 31 or face a tax penalty.
Accordingto the most recent numbers available, call volume is four times higherthan the state expected. The surge in calls in part is because ofhigher-than-expected enrollment in Commonwealth Care,the state's subsidized insurance program for residents with incomes upto 300% of the federal poverty level who do not have access toemployer-sponsored health coverage.
Nearly 140,000 residentsare enrolled in the program, which was the total enrollment projectedby the state for July 2008. A surge in calls is expected within thenext six weeks because people already enrolled in a plan will be ableto switch insurers and the state expects calls from many of the 45,000residents it recently sent letters to informing them of possibleeligibility.
The state contracts with a private company thatmanages the call center. Under the contract, no more than 3% of callsper month can go unanswered and the average time callers spend on holdcan be no longer than one minute. However, on average, 7.4% of callswere unanswered in the last six months. In September, an average of 15%of calls were unanswered and callers were on hold for an average ofabout four minutes.
The state has not imposed financialpenalties on the company because call volume has been so much higherthan expected. The company is in the process of training more operatorsto meet demand and help callers understand the complexity of theprogram. The state expects to have 50 operators at the call center bynext week (Dembner, Boston Globe, 11/5).
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