Christine Stuart photo

Access Health CT, Connecticut’s insurance exchange, reached a milestone this weekend when it surpassed a self-imposed goal of enrolling 100,000 residents before the end of March.

Since Oct. 1 of last year, the exchange reports that it has enrolled 121,983 individuals. About 41.5 percent, or 50,665 individuals, were enrolled in plans with one of the three private insurance carriers whose plans are available through the exchange. The rest of the 71,318 individuals were enrolled in Medicaid based on their income levels. About 48,983 of those were through Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, and another 22,335 individuals would have qualified for Medicaid without the Affordable Care Act.

This is the first time in Connecticut that Medicaid enrollment has surpassed enrollment with one of the three private insurance carriers. Previously, Connecticut had bucked the trend in other states, which saw a faster enrollment in Medicaid.

Information regarding the age of enrollees and other demographic information was not available Monday.

Kevin Counihan, executive director of Access Health CT, said federal officials told him that Connecticut was the first state to reach its internal enrollment goal.

Enrollment of 121,983 is 22 percent more than the March 31 goal, he said.

But exactly how many of those newly enrolled didn’t have health insurance before signing up is still difficult to determine.

“We’re in the process of doing some analysis of our applications to understand the insurance status of our enrollees,” Counihan said.

He said at the end of the analysis they’re hoping they will be able to announce that the uninsured level in Connecticut has drop below 8 percent. That’s based on the assumption that about 286,000 individuals in the state are uninsured.

He said the application doesn’t ask for insurance status, but it can be calculated that most of the uninsured will qualify for Medicaid. He said it’s probably safe to say that about 25 to 50 percent of the Medicaid population was previously uninsured. He said it’s estimated that about 5,000 to 8,000 who purchased a plan with one of the private insurance carriers were previously uninsured.

“But again these are estimates,” Counihan said.

During its inaugural year, the state didn’t require Access Health CT to negotiate premium rates with the three health insurance companies participating in the exchange. Instead, they had the Insurance Department review the rates, which some felt was sufficient.

However, there are some lawmakers who would like to see the state be more aggressive with downward pressure on the monthly premiums offered on the exchange. There’s a bill introduced by the Insurance and Real Estate Committee that asks the exchange to actively negotiate with the companies.

“We have the fourth highest costs, so we should expect to have relatively high pricing,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Monday.

According to a White House report released in September, Connecticut had the fourth highest premiums in the country.

Malloy said he thinks things went well in the first year because some insurance companies that considered participating decided not to after learning the Insurance Department would be reviewing their rates.

“There’s a lack of understanding the difference between an active Insurance Department that’s reviewing rates. We did that. It led to people dropping out because they didn’t like the fact that perhaps we were going to point out their costs were too high,” Malloy said. “I think we’re trying to strike the right balance and we’ll have that discussion with the legislature as time goes on.”

Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project, thinks the higher premiums stem from the state’s decision not to negotiate with insurance carriers over rates. She has said that if it was based on medical pricing, then states like New Jersey and New York, which have higher medical costs and higher costs of living, would be seeing higher monthly premiums, but that’s not what’s happening.

There are only three private insurance carriers participating in Connecticut’s exchange. There are at least 17 insurance carriers participating in New York’s health exchange, while there are 11 carriers participating in Florida’s.

Counihan said Monday that other insurance companies have been expressing interest in participating in Connecticut’s exchange.