Access Health CT Enrollment Rises To 23,440; 39% Qualify For Medicaid

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Access Health CT has been signing up people at its fastest rate yet but has still enrolled only a small fraction of Connecticut’s uninsured population.

Access Health CT, the state health exchange created by the Affordable Care Act, announced Thursday during a board meeting it had 23,440 people sign up for health insurance as of Dec. 4.

The total includes 9,075, or 39 percent, who qualified for government-funded Medicaid or CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

An additional 9,660 people, or 41 percent, qualified for a federally subsidized private health insurance plan.

Subsidies are available to people who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $45,960 for an individual or $94,200 for a family of four.

Also, 4,169 people, or 18 percent, signed up for private plans and are not receiving a federal subsidy. A remaining 536 signed up for small-group health plans.

Access Health CT Chief Executive Officer Kevin Counihan told the board Thursday that more people had enrolled in the past three days than in a typical week. Several executives at the exchange referred to a “December surge” in enrollment.

Enrollment is still far from covering 344,000 uninsured people in the state as estimated by Access Health CT.

The people who have enrolled so far skew to the older end of the spectrum: 40 percent are between the ages of 55 and 64; 22 percent are between 45 and 54; 11 percent are between 35 and 44; 11 percent are between 26 and 34; 8 percent are between 18 and 25; 7 percent are younger than 18.

The people younger than 18 are children in family plans. One percent of enrollees are 65 or older. Those who enrolled and are 65 and older were not eligible for Medicare for one reason or another. For example, non-citizens are ineligible for Medicare.

Most of the people who signed up for private health insurance plans — 62 percent — chose Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut, 36 percent picked ConnectiCare, and 2 percent chose HealthyCT.

Access Health CT has increased the monthly amount it spends on advertising to $1.2 million in December. It spent $514,000 in November and $135,000 in October.

Responding to questions about when people will be billed for the coverage that they signed up for, Chief Operations Officer Peter Van Loon said insurers will bill people later this month.

News reports indicated that Connecticut is bypassing a federal vendor to confirm incomes and other customer information.

James Wadleigh, the exchange’s chief information officer, said, “We have always had a plan to augment our data sources.” The exchange is using a secondary data source to prove a person’s identity when the federal services data hub is out of service.

Three to 5 percent of customers fail “remote identity proofing,” Wadleigh said. To resolve that, the exchange is looking for other ways to verify the customers, through state data, for example.

Dec. 31 is the deadline for people to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1.

About Matthew Sturdevant

Full-time staff journalist at The Hartford Courant and magazine freelancer with a master's degree in writing from Dartmouth. My work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Taiwan News, The Baltimore Sun and many other news sources. My blog has been referenced by Politico.com, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Georgetown Law Library and a number of organizations in healthcare and business. Sturdevant’s blog is "a well-written wealth of ideas," said The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, (businessjournalism.org, May 18, 2011). I have experience writing for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and blogs as well as shooting and editing video. I made regular appearances on news-talk radio and on the NBC affiliate station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I made occasional appearances on the Fox affiliate in Connecticut promoting Hartford Courant articles.

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