Affordable Healthcare Act
On January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be implemented in Massachusetts and across the nation. The ACA will bring many benefits to Massachusetts and its residents, helping us expand coverage to more Massachusetts residents, making it more affordable for small businesses to offer their employees healthcare, and providing additional tools to help families, individuals and businesses find affordable coverage. This notice is meant to help you understand health insurance Marketplaces, which are required by the ACA to make it easier for consumers to compare health insurance plans and enroll in coverage. In Massachusetts, the state Marketplace is known as the Massachusetts Health Connector. While you may or may not qualify for health insurance through the Health Connector, it may still be helpful for you to read and understand the information included here.
Overview: When key parts of the national health reform law take effect in January 2014, there will be an easy way for many individuals and small businesses in Massachusetts to buy health insurance: the Massachusetts Health Connector. This notice provides some basic information about the Health Connector, and how coverage available through the Health Connector relates to any coverage that may be offered by your employer. You can find out more by visiting: MAhealthconnector.org, or for non-Massachusetts residents, Healthcare.gov or (1.800.318.2596; TTY: 1.855.889.4325).
What is the Massachusetts Health Connector?
The Health Connector is our state's health insurance Marketplace. It is designed to help individuals, families, and small businesses find health insurance that meets their needs and fits their budget. The Health Connector offers "one-stop shopping" to easily find and compare private health insurance options from the state's leading health and dental insurance companies. Some individuals and families may also qualify for a new kind of tax credit that lowers their monthly premium right away, as well as cost sharing reductions that can lower out-of-pocket expenses. This new tax credit is enabled by §26B of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code.
Open enrollment for individuals and families to buy health insurance coverage through the Health Connector begins Oct. 1, 2013, for coverage starting as early as Jan. 1, 2014. (And in future years, open enrollment will begin every Oct. 15.) You can find out more by visiting MAhealthconnector.org or calling 1.877.MA ENROLL (1.877.623.6765).
Health Connector and Reducing Expenses
Can I qualify for federal and state assistance that reduces my health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses through the Health Connector? Depending on your income, you may qualify for federal and/or state tax credits and other subsidies that reduce your premiums and lower your out-of-pocket expenses if you shop through the Health Connector. You can find out more about the income criteria for qualifying for these subsidies by visiting MAhealthconnector.org or calling 1.877.MA ENROLL (1.877.623.6765).
Health Connector and Employer-Based Insurance
Does access to employer-based health coverage affect my eligibility for subsidized health insurance through the Health Connector? An offer of health coverage from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as the employer, could affect your eligibility for these credits and subsidies through the Health Connector. If your income meets the eligibility criteria, you will qualify for credits and subsidies through the Health Connector if:
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not offer coverage to you, or
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts offers you coverage, but:
- The coverage the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides you (not including other family members) would require you to spend more than 9.5 percent of your household income for the year; or
- The coverage the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides does not meet the "minimum value" standard set by the new national health reform law (which says that the plan offered has to cover at least 60 percent of total allowed costs)
If you purchase a health plan through the Health Connector instead of accepting health coverage offered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts please note that you will lose the employer contribution (if any) for your health insurance. Also, please note that the amount that you and your employer contribute to your employer-sponsored health insurance is often excluded from federal and state income taxes. Health Connector premiums have different tax treatment.
As part of considering whether the ACA and Marketplaces will affect you as an employee it is important to understand what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts offers you.
The Commonwealth offers benefited employees health coverage through the Group Insurance Commission. To be eligible for GIC health insurance, a state employee must work a minimum of 18 ¾ hours in a 37.5 hour workweek or 20 hours in a 40 hour workweek. The employee must contribute to a participating GIC retirement system, such as the State Board of Retirement, a municipal retirement board, the Teachers Retirement Board, the Optional Retirement Pension System for Higher Education, a Housing, Redevelopment Retirement Plan, or another Massachusetts public sector retirement system (OBRA is not such a public retirement system for this purpose. Visit www.mass.gov/gic or see your GIC Coordinator for more information.
Temporary employees, contractors, less-than-half time part time workers, and most seasonal employees are not eligible for GIC health insurance benefits. These employees may shop for health insurance through the Health Connector and may be eligible for advanced premium federal tax credits and/or state subsidies if their gross family income is at or below 400% Federal Poverty Level (which is approximately $46,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four). Visit www.MAhealthconnector.org or call 1-877-MA-ENROLL for more information.
If there is any confusion around your employment status and what you are eligible for, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your HR department or GIC Coordinator.