By Carla Anderson
April 7, 2014
Access Health CT officials announced nearly 200,000 signed up for health insurance between Oct. 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014. About 76,600 people enrolled in private health plans, and more than 121,000 qualified for Medicaid.
Seventy-three percent of Connecticut residents selecting a private health plan qualified for financial assistance, compared to 83 percent nationally according to the March enrollment report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Twenty-two percent of enrollees were between the ages of 18 and 34. Signups among that age group are considered vital to keeping insurance costs from jumping up in 2015 and beyond.
Enrollment for private insurance in 2014 ended March 31 in Connecticut. While the federal marketplace and most state-based exchanges extended deadlines for in-process applications, Access Health CT did not. Individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater.
People who get married or divorced, change jobs, have a child or experience another qualifying event may be eligible for a special enrollment period to purchase commercial insurance before the next open enrollment period. Open enrollment for individual coverage in 2015 begins Nov. 15, 2014.
Enrollment for Medicaid (called Husky in Connecticut), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and through the small business marketplace, also called the SHOP, continues throughout the year.
Access Health CT has been one of the nation’s most successful marketplaces. While HealthCare.gov and several state-run have experienced various degrees of technical problems, Access Health CT has operated well. In fact, Connecticut is launching a consulting business through which other states can license Access Health CT’s technology or pay Access Health CT to manage various marketplace functions.
However, one area of concern for Access Health CT is low Latino enrollment. (Access Health CT did not begin tracking ethnicity of enrollees until six weeks into open enrollment. Officials plan to work on the data gap and provide official Latino enrollment numbers after March 31.) An official with the state’s Hispanic Health Council said the marketplace’s heavy reliance on online enrollment is problematic. Latinos lag the general population in Internet use and home broadband access, and many prefer to sign up for health insurance in person. For those who were willing to shop online, a Spanish-language version of the Access Health CT website didn’t launch until late February. Cost is also a barrier. Community groups working with low and middle-income Hispanic families report that many view health insurance as too expensive — even after subsidies. Yet another issue is fear of deportation. In families where some members are undocumented, people fear information they provide during the enrollment process will be shared with immigration officials.
Connecticut was one of the early adopters in implementing a health insurance marketplace. Gov. Malloy signed legislation in 2011 to create the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange, which was rebranded as Access Health CT in February 2013. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved Connecticut’s blueprint for a state-run exchange in December 2012.
Access Health CT describes itself as an active purchaser, but announced that it will not negotiate rates with health plans — at least for 2014. Prompted by concerns over high premium costs, Connecticut legislators are again debating the issue. SB-11 would direct Access Health CT to negotiate with insurers, presumably for the 2015 plan year. Connecticut’s Fairfield County made the Kaiser Family Foundation list of the top 10 most expensive health insurance markets.
Anthem, ConnectiCare, and HealthyCT (a new, nonprofit co-op plan) offer individual medical plans on the Connecticut exchange. According to a report released by HHS, the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Connecticut is $340 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
According to HHS, more than 240,000 Connecticut residents are uninsured and eligible for coverage through the marketplace.
Access Health CT
State Exchange Profile: Connecticut
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Connecticut’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Connecticut Health Reform Central
Information about exchange planning and development
Let your Connecticut governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Connecticut Governor M. Daniel Malloy