cost containment

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Gov. Touts Health Reform: Prevention Up, Smoking & Cervical Cancer Down

(Photo by Dominick Reuter for WBUR/flickr)

In a speech to the Massachusetts Medical Society today, Gov. Deval Patrick took the opportunity to crow about health improvements linked to reforms that started in 2006. There were the usual statistics about coverage: 98.2 percent of the total population and 99.8 percent of children in the state have health insurance. But the governor also cited some other, less familiar numbers. Here are a few (all quotes from Patrick’s prepared remarks):

— More businesses offer health insurance to their employees today than before our 2006 reforms took effect, some 78 percent of Massachusetts businesses as compared to the national average of about 69 percent

— Preventive care is up: more people are receiving cancer screenings, more women are getting pre-natal care and visits to emergency rooms have decreased. 150,000 people have stopped smoking because we expanded coverage for smoking cessation programs. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research documents improvements in physical health, mental health, functional limitations, and joint disorders as a result of increased access to care in Massachusetts. Women, minorities and low-income people have experienced the biggest health improvements.

— Among Hispanic males, a notably underinsured population in Massachusetts before health care reform, the detection of testicular cancer has more than doubled and the majority of cases are now detected at an early stage.

— And with wider access to screenings, we’ve seen a 36 percent decrease in cervical cancer in women.

— Over 90 percent of our residents have a primary care physician, and 4 out of 5 have seen their doctor in the last 12 months.

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If You Get Your Own Health Insurance, MA Open Enrollment Ends Today

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: