SPRINGFIELD — Local officials gathered at the Caring Health Center on Monday to urge more residents to sign up for health insurance under the Health Connector program including reduced premium costs under the American Rescue Act.
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal and Mayor Domenic J. Sarno were among officials gathered at the Caring Health Center office on Sumner Avenue to announce enhanced health insurance access and benefits in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Neal, chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, said the newly approved $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes lower health insurance premiums for participants, eased income guidelines, and expanded access to affordable health insurance coverage as part of pandemic relief.
“The American Rescue Plan saved the American economy,” Neal said.
The open enrollment deadline for sign-ups for the Massachusetts Health Connector program was extended to this Friday “due to COVID-19 and the new and substantial subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan,” said Tania M. Barber, president and CE0 of Caring Health Center.
“Consumers should apply, enroll, and pay their premium (if they have one) by July 23rd for coverage effective August 1 or September 1, Barber said.
The Caring Health Center’s top goal is “to make sure that everyone in the community has access to health coverage and medical care, especially during this difficult time,” she said.
Audrey Gasteier, Health Connector Chief of Policy and Strategy, said improvements in recent months have included:
- Since April, the Health Connector program in Massachusetts has been able to deliver new and additional premium help to tens of thousands of members and new applicants.
- A first-time opportunity for people who are over 400% of the federal poverty level to be eligible for lower premiums. That is an individual earning about $51,000 a year or a family of four earning approximately $106,000 a year.
- For someone in Springfield who earns approximatley $28,000 a year, premiums in the ConnectorCare program are as low as $56 per month.
- The state estimates the American Rescue Plan will bring close to $600 million into Massachusetts to lower residents’ health coverage premiums in 2021 and 2022.
The Caring Health Center is a federally qualified health center, serving thousands of patients in the region and accepts all patients regardless of their insurance or income status, according to the center
The center has health insurance navigators to assist individuals, families and small businesses.
During his stop at the health center, Neal also cited the continued effort to provide insurance coverage for all residents of the state under the Affordable Care Act, and to help families financially under an expanded Child Tax Credit program that began last week.
Under the American Rescue Plan, the Internal Revenue Service reported that the maximum Child Tax Credit “would rise to $3,600 for qualifying children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for qualifying children between ages 6 and 17.”
Sarno praised Neal for his efforts as Ways and Means chairman, and for “being on the forefront” of the coronavirus recovery.
State Sen. Eric Lesser said that under the American Rescue Plan, millions more will be covered by insurance nationally. Massachusetts is committed ‘to expanding and improving” access to affordable health insurance, he said.
“We encourage anyone in need of assistance with health coverage to call or visit us at Caring Health Center,” Barber said. “In addition to our Navigator program, we provide a full range of primary care, dental, behavioral health, nutrition, many public health support programs, and a COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic. Our services are free, confidential, and available in all languages.”