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kerriEvery day, someone comes into the HealthFirst Family Care Center in Fall River wanting to see a doctor. In some cases, they don’t have health insurance. That’s when Kerri Lewis springs into action.

Lewis is working at the Massachusetts Health Connector’s walk-in support center at HealthFirst during Open Enrollment, the time of year when anyone can sign up for coverage. Lewis can help people complete an application, find out if they qualify for MassHealth or a Health Connector plan, and help them pick the right plan for them and their family.

“Nine times out of 10 they leave here extremely happy,” Lewis said. “They are either saving money with our coverage options, or leaving here insured or at least on the road to being insured for the first time in a long time.”

Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of insured residents in the country, with more than 96 percent of the people having coverage. But during Open Enrollment, which runs through January 31, the Health Connector is making an effort to reach to those without insurance, and encouraging them to sign up and get covered.

The Health Connector is targeting 10 communities with higher rates of uninsured people to increase coverage. Part of that effort includes opening new four walk-in centers during Open Enrollment, so people can help signing up for coverage (find your nearest walk-in center here). Along with the walk-in centers, a network of Navigators and Certified Application Counselors at health centers, hospitals and other locations are available to help. (To find the assister nearest you, visit the Health Connector’s assister lookup page).

“We offer assistance with completing whole applications, as well as making changes to applications they may have already submitted,” Lewis said. “If they are at all confused or unsure about the application or health insurance process, come see us. We would rather them come see us and get the help and information they need, instead of trying to figure it out alone.”

In November, more than 10,000 people completed a new application, finding out if they qualified for Health Connector or MassHealth coverage. About 3,500 people visited a walk-in center, getting help with an application, picking a plan, or making a payment. There is still more than a month in Open Enrollment, giving people the opportunity to sign up. Current members can stop by a walk-in center and review their plan options for next year, and make their premium payment.

Applying online, either at home with an assister, is the quickest way to get coverage. The online application can be found at MAhealthconnector.org. When sitting down to do the application, it’s helpful to have on hand Social Security numbers, immigration documents, and tax return and income information for everyone.

Having health insurance is important benefit for a family’s health and financial well-being. Having health insurance makes it easier and less-expensive to go to the doctor. For many people, getting new health insurance takes away a stressor and creates a peace of mind they quickly come to appreciate.

It’s a feeling Lewis often sees first-hand. For example, one woman she helped was faced with high insurance costs from her work, but filled out an application with Lewis and found affordable coverage. Instead of worrying about how she was going to feed her family and take care of her sick son, she felt saved. 

“She left here saving so much money and she was crying tears of joy,” Lewis said. “It was definitely heartwarming to know I helped them that much.”

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