Massachusetts Amends State Maternity Leave Act to Extend Leave to Males

January 15, 2015 at 9:00 am | Posted in MMLA, Regulations, State Laws | Leave a comment
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In his last week of office, Governor Patrick signed a bill into law that amends the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MMLA) by expanding parental leave in Massachusetts for both female and male employees . Currently the MMLA only permits female employees with eight weeks of job-protected maternity leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Males will be able to receive eight weeks of job protected maternity leave as well. The effective date for the change is April 7, 2015.

This change will require attention by Massachusetts employers with fewer than 50 employees who are not subject to FMLA.

Although the effective date is April 7, 2015, as a practical matter, Massachusetts employers with fewer than 50 employees should appreciate that there is federal discriminatory risk under the EEOC if they do not grant maternity leave to males now. To that end, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has cautioned employers that:

The MMLA, by its terms, provides eight weeks of maternity leave to female employees only. An employer, who complies with the MMLA by providing eight weeks of maternity leave to female employees only, does not violate a male employee’s right under Chapter 151B to be free from sex discrimination. However, an employer who provides leave to female employees only, and not to male employees, may violate the federal prohibitions against sex discrimination even though the employer has acted in compliance with the MMLA.

 

Massachusetts: New $254 Million Health Exchange Website is working

November 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services, Health Care, Health Insurance Marketplace, HHS, Medical, Wellness | Leave a comment
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by Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts officials are reporting a successful weekend launch of the state’s revamped health insurance website, but cautioned of possible “hiccups” in the system with expected heavier traffic during the week.

Officials said Monday that in the first two days of the new federal open enrollment period, nearly 5,000 eligible people were immediately registered for state Medicaid coverage.

Nearly 7,000 others were able to complete the process of determining eligibility for plans that comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. They still need to review those insurance plans, choose one, and make their first month’s premium payment.

The successful rollout was in sharp contrast to a year ago, when a failed health exchange forced the state to place hundreds of thousands of residents into temporary Medicaid coverage and led to a costly overhaul of the website. The website woes were also an embarrassment for the state that provided a blueprint for the federal health care law.

Maydad Cohen, a special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick, said Monday that the new website has proven stable and reliable — handling more than 57,000 visitors over the first two days of open enrollment.

“During the weekend we saw excellent performance of the website,” Cohen told reporters Monday. “We had a very successful, very exciting weekend.”

Of the nearly 7,000 people deemed eligible to obtain insurance through the state’s health insurance exchange during the weekend, about 3,600 individuals and families already have selected a plan and 137 already have paid their first month’s premium, state Health Connector officials said.

Those numbers will continue to climb as more people sign up for insurance.
Hundreds of call representatives also are assisting those looking to sign up for coverage, having trouble with the website or are unsure how to use it.

Cohen said one of the main reasons for high call wait times is that many of those seeking one-on-one help want to go through the entire application on the phone, something that can take 45 minutes or more per application.

Cohen urged those seeking to sign up for coverage to try the website first.

As a result of the previous website troubles, the state ended up putting more than 400,000 individuals into temporary subsidized insurance programs, including MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program.

Secretary of Health and Human Services, John Polanowicz said between 175,000 and 225,000 of those were expected to enroll in new coverage, including through MassHealth.

Polanowizc said the number is lower than the 400,000 because of what he called the natural “churn” of subsidized care, with individuals losing their eligibility because they’ve found a job that offers insurance, or have obtained health care through a spouse, or have moved out of state.

Dec. 23 is the deadline to ensure coverage that starts on Jan. 1. Fixing the website hasn’t been cheap. The original cost of Massachusetts’ website was estimated at $174 million. That has jumped to $254 million.

Although First in Universal Healthcare Requirement…Massachusetts Remains Near Last in a Functioning Website/Exchange

July 14, 2014 at 11:44 am | Posted in Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Insurance Marketplace | Leave a comment
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As reported in the July 10, 2014 article from the Associated Press that follows, frustration abounds on Beacon Hill as the state is still hoping for a soon to be operational health insurance exchange/marketplace.

By BOB SALSBERG, Associated Press:

BOSTON (AP) Software ordered by Massachusetts to fix its hobbled health care exchange passed initial tests, renewing hopes that the state could finally have a fully operational website by year’s end, officials said Thursday.

The breakdown dramatically slowed the state’s transition to the federal Affordable Care Act from its own first-in-the-nation universal health insurance law that provided a model for President Barack Obama’s plan.

Massachusetts severed ties earlier this year with the lead contractor on its health exchange, CGI Group, and has been forced to shuffle more than 200,000 of its residents into temporary Medicaid coverage.

In May, state officials unveiled a “dual-track” approach that called for buying software that has powered insurance marketplaces in other states while also laying the groundwork for a switch over to the federal government’s health insurance market, should that be necessary.

Maydad Cohen, a special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick, told the Massachusetts Health Connector board that the software cleared several key tests after its initial release last month, prompting federal officials to authorize the state to continue pursuing its current strategy.

A final decision on whether to go forward with the software solution is expected early next month following the rollout of an enhanced version of the program.

Cohen said the goal was a fully functional exchange before the next ACA enrollment period beginning Nov. 15.

“I don’t know where we are going to be at open enrollment right now, but I am increasingly, cautiously optimistic about our ability to deliver the product,” Cohen told reporters after briefing the board.

The total cost to taxpayers for the website breakdown remained unclear.

The state initially estimated the cost of the dual-track approach at $121 million. Officials said they would not be able to produce a final cost estimate until it finalized contract negotiations with Optum, a health care technology firm that was retained by the state.

Cohen said state officials hope the federal government agrees to pay the full tab for repairs. A separation agreement reached with CGI calls for paying the Montreal-based firm an additional $35 million on top of the $17 million the state already had paid toward an original $89 million contract.

The state also had paid out $138 million in fees for medical services through June 30 for the 237,000 residents forced into “provisional” Medicaid coverage because the connector was unable to determine their eligibility for ACA-compliant programs, Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor said Thursday.

That total was before federal reimbursement, and Shor insisted the overall costs would not have been much higher had the state been able to enroll more people into permanent coverage. Officials remain confident that all residents will be moved off temporary coverage by next year.

Massachusetts has been given a waiver from most requirements of the federal law until Dec. 31.

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