December 15, 2017
 
Nonprofit Law Firm Gets $101K to Prevent Health Insurance Loss

May 11, 2015 — Responding to complications caused by the problem-plagued Health Connector, an online system through which state residents sign up for health insurance, the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts has awarded a $101,000 grant to a nonprofit law firm aimed at helping prevent people living in central Massachusetts from losing coverage.

The grant, announced last week, was made to Health Law Advocates (HLA), based in Boston, which provides free legal representation to low-income residents experiencing difficulty accessing or paying for needed medical services. With its partner organization, Health Care For All, HLA combines legal expertise with grassroots organizing and policy reform to advance the statewide movement for universal health care access.

“This is a unique situation that calls for swift action to protect the health of the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Jan Yost, president of the Worcester-based Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts (HFCM), a grantmaking organization that aims to improve the health of people in the region.

“By supporting skilled attorneys who can navigate the system and protect people’s rights, HLA can make a substantive difference for a lot of vulnerable families. Maintaining health insurance coverage is essential to accessing healthcare services and thus to maintaining good health,” she said.

The grant will enable HLA provide free legal assistance to residents in central Massachusetts who encounter difficulty maintaining their coverage through state insurance programs, such as MassHealth and the newly created Connector Care program.

“The ongoing problems plaguing Massachusetts’ system for enrolling residents in health insurance coverage are well-documented,” HLA noted. “Due to major defects hampering the state’s enrollment system in 2014, an unprecedented 1.5 million Massachusetts residents must reapply to maintain their coverage in 2015.

HLA launched the initiative in anticipation of “an elevated risk for wrongful coverage terminations as renewal applications flood an already beleaguered system.”

Today, the Pioneer Institute, an independent, non-partisan, privately funded research organization that analyzes civic issues in Massachusetts, released a report that claims that state officials for more than a year knew the Health Connector “was off track” before its launch in October, 2013.

“Instead of raising concerns about the project, they misled the public by minimizing the shortcomings of the contractor hired to build the website, asked state workers to approve shoddy work and appear to have covered up the project’s abysmal progress in a presentation to federal officials,” according to the report.

As a result of the failed website, “more than 325,000 Massachusetts residents were placed in a transitional Medicaid program without any eligibility determination and tens of thousands of applicants for health insurance found themselves in danger of losing coverage altogether,” the Institute noted, adding, “The impact on the integrity of the state’s Medicaid program and the state budget has been enormous and is still not fully understood.”

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