And Then What Happened?: Live your best life with health insurance


For the Recorder
Published: 11/18/2019 11:08:51 PM

Do you suffer from anxiety surrounding your health care insurance?

Does thinking about calling the Massachusetts Health Connector helpline make you break out in hives?

Do you live without health insurance because you just don’t know what to do?

Then ask your doctor about Aria.

(Release the birds flying, the music playing and images of a happy couple playing golf and smiling at each other.)

Aria Sampson is the, real, live, oh-thank-goodness answer to your health insurance nightmare experience. She and her colleague Jacqueline Matta are at their desks at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield, right there on the corner of High and Beacon Streets, just waiting for you to come in. Their office is located half a hallway down from the front door, and they will greet you with happy smiles, interactive personalities and all the information you need about what you’re supposed to do to get and maintain your health insurance, whether it’s MassHealth, or any other Massachusetts health insurance program. Just ask the people at the front desk for Patient Financial Services when you walk in the hospital.

And what’s more, Aria and Jacqueline have telephones — actual landlines that are connected to people who can hook things right up for you. They have the words and the knowledge to talk to the people in charge of it all, and can take care of stuff you’ll never be able to figure out for yourself if you live to be 400 years old.

You can make an appointment, or you can just walk in. Aria and Jacqueline see people Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., all year round.

Right now, through Jan. 23 is the annual open enrollment period for Mass Health and all those other plans, so it’s a good time to go and see them, although you can stop in their office in mid-July, if you want to, and still get good, sound answers about what in the world you’re supposed to do with all of this.

They know how income levels affect different plans, how much you need to pay every month, how to sign up for it all, and why you got that letter from Health Connector scaring the crap out of you about how your plan is going to change even though nothing else in your life has.

They’re good at hearing situations, understanding rules, explaining policy, going to bat for, and talking people in off the ledge of fear, and they do it all day, without drama, right there in that office.

I asked Aria and Jacqueline why, in fact, it is so freaking difficult to navigate all of this on the official call-in numbers Health Connector instructs people to call in to, and they said it’s because the helplines are overwhelmed by people with different scenarios and that the staff members trying to answer all those questions have too much on their plates and just can’t get it all done.

(I tried to make it more dramatic and sensational than that, but Aria and Jacqueline are true professionals about it all and wouldn’t let me.)

Aria and Jacqueline are certified application counselors, which requires annual training and re-certification through the state to assist the community in applying for state and federal health care programs. (I got that from their official job description.) That means they are experts in Massachusetts’ own personal system of state-wide healthcare, instituted by Republican Governor Mitt Romney back in 2006 when he was governor of this state, a system that later launched ObamaCare. (I’ll bet very few Democrats outside this state know that!)

So why live with the willie-jitters about the state of your health?

Why worry another day about whether or not you and your 7- year-old mother are eligible for state-covered health insurance?

Why not start improving your health with real live insurance that will take care of you if you need it?

(Release the music again!)

Call Aria and Jacqueline of Baystate Franklin Medical Center at (413) 773-2849 and make your appointment today!

Side effects may include waiting room time (now that I’ve told everyone about Aria and Jacqueline) but bring a book, bring your knitting and bring your powers of conversation. You’ll make new friends and you’ll be happy that, not only do you have health insurance, but that all of your new-found friends now have it, too!

Nan Parati lives and works in Ashfield, where she found home and community following Hurricane Katrina. She can be reached at

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