NORTH ADAMS -- Ecu-Health Care, a nonprofit health care access organization, will take a lead role in Northern Berkshire as the state prepares to meet new federal health care provisions.
After Dec. 31, the state-subsidized health insurance plan Commonwealth Care will be eliminated with the continued rollout of provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Individuals will be given assistance to find affordable coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector, beginning in October.
A new program called Connector Care will replace the program.
Ecu-Health Care has hired a new employee with a $40,000 Navigator grant to help individuals choose a new plan.
"The important challenge is to inform people in the community and make sure they are enrolled," said Executive Director Charles Joffe-Halpern, of Ecu-Health Care.
There are 175,000 individuals statewide enrolled in Commonwealth Care who will have to re-enroll through the Massachusetts Health Connector before Dec. 31, Joffe-Halpern said. If they don't, they will not have health care at the beginning of the year.
Commonwealth Care is a health insurance program for adults 19 and older who are uninsured and meet certain eligibility requirements.
Beginning next year, there will be a growing number eligible for insurance subsidized with premium tax credits. The income requirement for individuals increases from 300 percent above the poverty level, or $34,476, to 400 percent, or $45,960.
Previously, state-subsidized health insurance was capped at a family of four earning $70,656. Now the income threshold has increased to $94,200 for a family of four.
Brian Rosman, research director for health care nonprofit Health Care for All, said because of the Affordable Care Act, there will be a closed gap between the availability of mental health services compared to physical services. Individuals will also be eligible for dental care through a seperate program.
Businesses and individuals are also encouraged to explore alternative options because there could be lower-cost options, Rosman said.
The nonprofit will spend the next several months on media outlets letting people know about the changeover, Joffe-Halpern added.
The nonprofit services North Adams, Cheshire, Adams, Savoy, Florida Clarksburg, Williamstown and New Ashford. It also serves some south Vermont towns.
He said the three main reasons why someone might not enroll in health care is they do not know about the program, they couldn't navigate the application process, or they might not know they are eligible for the program.
"We face exciting challenges," Joffe-Halpern said.
For additional information, individuals are encouraged to call Ecu-Health at: (413) 663-8711.