Connecticut residents, who don’t qualify for Medicaid, have just six more days to sign up for health insurance plans if they want to avoid a tax penalty next year.
“The momentum of enrollment is increasing pretty dramatically,” Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan said Tuesday.
Counihan is the head of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange. On Tuesday at First Choice Health Centers in East Hartford he said the exchange is better prepared for the increase in call volume than it was prior to the Dec. 23 deadline.
He said there are 307 call center representatives available to help customers through the enrollment process. That’s more than double what they had in December before the first deadline.
The private insurance carriers, which struggled to get bills and ID cards out to their new customers, are also better prepared to handle the surge of last-minute applications, Counihan said.
On Monday the exchange enrolled 1,168 residents with one of the three private insurance providers participating on the exchange. Since Oct. 1 the exchange has enrolled 64,450 individuals or about 38 percent with Anthem, ConnectiCare, or HealthyCT and 105,571 individuals or 62 percent in Medicaid.
The goal may be to get the most people covered as possible, but those who fall below 138 percent of the federal poverty level will be able to apply for Medicaid at any time.
Counihan said the goal at the moment is to have 185,000 individuals enrolled before midnight Monday, March 31. He said they would like to see 70,000 individuals enrolled with a private carrier.
Demographically, about 30 percent of those enrolling are under the age of 35, according to Counihan. And the number of those age 55 and above have leveled off.
In order to survive the exchange will need younger, healthier individuals to pay into the system, but Counihan said he believes that demographic argument is a “red herring.”
“There are so many protections against selection, against utilization, against age,” Counihan said. “Those programs run for three years or are permanent, such as the risk adjustment program.”
He said the key for the states will be to build a lot of momentum and get as many individuals as they can into the system. “That will sustain and secure the success of the exchanges over a period of time, multiple years. That’s the best way to use the law of large numbers to get a balanced risk pool.”
Republican lawmakers failed to get legislation passed that would mandate monthly reporting of the enrollment numbers to a legislative committee. The bill failed to make it out of committee before its deadline.
In addition to reporting on the number of individuals enrolled in Medicaid and those enrolled with a private carrier, the bill asked for the Access Health CT Board of Directors to give them numbers on how many individuals were previously uninsured before receiving coverage.
“We won’t have that number for a period of time,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.
Counihan added that they working with the Kaiser Foundation in order to come up with a calculation of how many previously uninsured were able to attain coverage through the exchange. Prior to the Affordable Care Act’s passage Connecticut had about 286,000 uninsured, which is about 8 percent of the total population.
Eugene Market, CEO of First Choice Health Centers, said they saw about 3,800 uninsured patients last year at their East Hartford location and were able to sign up about 1,500 through the exchange. That’s about 40 percent of its clientele that didn’t previously have coverage.
He said when they started asking patients if they had coverage they thought they would get about one-third enrolled, but to hit 40 percent within one location is pretty good.
“To give them fewer people without coverage is very significant for us,” Malloy said.
Editor’s Note: The original story had mistakenly switched the percentage of those in private insurance plans with those in Medicaid. It has been changed to reflect that 62 percent enrolled in Medicaid and 38 percent enrolled with private carriers.