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Mass. gas explosion victims can seek waiver on insurance premiums

By BRIAN DOWLING
Boston Herald

September 25. 2018 10:56PM




The Massachusetts health insurance marketplace will pay up to three months of premiums for residents and businesses dealing with the Merrimack Valley gas explosions, the agency said.

About 7,500 residents and 23 small businesses across Lawrence, Andover and North Andover — where the crippled natural gas system has left homes and businesses without heat since Sept. 13 — can apply to have their premiums waived by the Massachusetts Health Connector, the independent state agency hosting the health insurance market.

“The crisis turned lives upside-down, and many people are going to be dealing with the impacts for months,” Louis Gutierrez, executive director of the insurance marketplace, said at a meeting Tuesday in Lawrence.

People affected by the natural gas fires with insurance through the marketplace must contact the agency, over the phone or in person, and detail how the explosions and loss of gas has impacted them.

The hardship waivers will last until the end of 2018.

Gutierrez said he is open to extending the waiver beyond the end of the year.

“We will evaluate as things go,” he said. “I’m open to considering anything depending on how long the recovery takes.”

The health connector plans to pay the waived premiums to the insurance companies, and it does not have an estimate for how much that might cost for the three months.

The numbers could add up quickly, though. Every 1,000 three-month waivers at $100 monthly premiums adds to $300,000. Lefferts said the money will come from other agency revenue streams.

Utility crews last weekend handed out electric hot plates and space heaters to residents in the three towns, where gas service is expected to remain off until mid-November. The National Guard started handing out the 7,000 hot plates and 24,000 electric heaters.

Gov. Charlie Baker has said there is no question that Columbia Gas is expected to pick up the tab for the restoration and recovery efforts.


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