The January 1, 2014 implementation the national Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, brings many changes for those in Massachusetts already receiving subsidized insurance through the state, as well as new opportunities to those who today are uninsured or under-insured.
The Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers is prepared to make that transition as seamless as possible for residents of Greater Lowell, Executive Director Paulo Pinto said in the MAPS offices on Mill Street in the city’s Back Central neighborhood Friday afternoon.
MAPS has been chosen as one of 10 “navigator” agencies by the Massachusetts Health Connector to conduct outreach on behalf of the state to residents within their communities.
For instance, the federal reform expands the Medicaid program, making half of the 200,000 people receiving subsidized health insurance through the connector eligible for Medicaid; they will need to be transitioned into that system, explained Health Connector Executive Director Jean Yang.
“We are very prepared for the challenges,” she said, adding that 97 percent of Massachusetts residents are insured as the result of the state’s 2006 healthcare reform.
The federal law “provides a great opportunity to further the success we have achieved,” Yang said. But, the state needs assistance from community partners like MAPS to conduct the necessary education and outreach and assist people in filling out enrollment forms.
Pinto stressed that MAPS will not only assist individuals and families with their insurance needs, but also small businesses. They also are not limiting their services to the Portuguese speaking community, but will assist anyone who needs help in enrolling for health insurance or has questions about the new federal law.
In MAPS’ Lowell office, Polyanna Figueiredo will lead the navigator team. She and five other staff members are currently undergoing training regarding the federal law. The goal is to help more than 2,000 people enroll in a health insurance programs that fits their needs.
Mayor Patrick Murphy said he is appreciative of the enthusiasm and willingness of MAPS to conduct this important outreach work because, what he has learned in his time in city government is that “one of the most important things other than having policies and programs in place to help people is making people aware of them.”
Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins October 1.
For more information call MAPS at 978-970-1250 or visit the Massachusetts Health Connector at www.mahealthconnector.org.