NORTH ADAMS -- It's not too late to apply for health insurance.
Local residents who are not seeking help paying for insurance now have until April 15 to sign up, according to Charles "Chip" Joffe-Halpern, executive director of Ecu-Health Care. Residents who are seeking help paying by means of subsidized insurance can enroll anytime this year.
"I don't want someone thinking that it's too late," he said.
Under the national Affordable Care Act, individuals who are not seeking help paying for insurance were required to enroll in health coverage by March 31.
Niki Conte, assistant director of public outreach and education with the Massachusetts Health Connector, said her organization has issued a special "qualifying event" for people that were unable to complete the enrollment application in time. Individuals now have until April 15 to apply for health coverage that starts May 1 or June 1, she said.
Those who are seeking help paying for insurance can apply any time of year.
Joffe-Halpern, who's been with Ecu-Health Care since its inception in 1995, said one of the biggest reasons eligible people don't enroll for coverage is they are simply unaware the programs exist.
Other reasons include the perception that enrolling is difficult, or they don't know they are eligible.
He cited the case of a 25-year-old woman whom he visited at her hospital bed shortly following the MassHealth Medicaid expansion program in 1997. The woman had chronic back pain, he said, but resisted going to the emergency room for fear of high medical bills.
"Finally the pain got so bad a family member forced her to come to the ER, where she was diagnosed with blood clots in her lungs," he said. "She was eligible for MassHealth under the expansion all along, but never knew it."
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For more information
Several different local health care access agencies are available to supply information about applying for coverage.
- Ecu-Health Care, which the state Health Connector designated as one of the 10 Navigator sites, can be reached by calling (413) 663-8771.
- Pittsfield-area residents can contact Advocacy for Access at (413) 445-9480, and South County residents can contact Community Health Programs in Great Barrington at (413) 528-8580.
On the Web: The application can also be completed online at MAhealthconnector.org. Individuals can call the connector at (877) 623-6765.