As Connecticut’s insurance exchange gets ready for the second year of enrollment there’s a new leader at the helm, a shorter enrollment period, more choices, and less money for outreach.
This year’s enrollment period will open on Nov. 15 and run through Feb. 15. During that time, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said the state would like to cut the number of uninsured in the state by half.
She said recent numbers show there are only about 140,000 uninsured individuals left in the state after the first round of enrollment and she hopes the exchange will enroll 70,000 by Feb. 15. But admittedly the remaining population without insurance may be more difficult to reach than it was the first time around.
“These people are going to be harder to get to,” Wyman said.
Access Health CT found that 67 percent of the remaining uninsured reside in 10 key urban areas: New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New Britain, Meriden, Stamford, West Haven, Windham, and East Hartford.
Jason Madrak, chief marketing officer for Access Health CT, said that the uninsured population is more urban and minority and the exchange is planning an ad buy of television commercials to specifically target these populations.
Health care advocates have been critical over the past few months of the resources the exchange has dedicated toward reaching these uninsured populations. A survey by the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement at Yale’s School of Public Health found that most Access Health CT enrollees found out about the exchange through word of mouth more often than through paid advertisements.
Access Health CT will spend about $1 million on training 450 workers to help people sign up or re-enroll in an insurance plan on the exchange, according to Kathleen Tallarita, the marketplace’s government and public affairs outreach manager.
The biggest chunk of that money — $530,000 — will go toward Access Health CT storefronts where people can get one-on-one enrollment help. Twenty people will be trained for that purpose. Another $353,000 will be spent on training 30 individuals at community enrollment partners such as libraries and community organizations.
That’s in addition to the advertising campaign, which will encourage residents to enroll in a plan online or by telephone. The call center will be staffed with 305 individuals ready to answer questions.
What’s new this year?
This year there will be four insurance companies for consumers to choose from.
Last year, 77,712 individuals enrolled in one of three private insurance plans. Of those individuals, about 60,847 received a premium subsidy.
Access Health CT’s CEO James Wadleigh said he expects to enroll about 30,000 more individuals this year in one of the private insurance plans offered on the exchange.
That means they anticipate about 40,000 individuals to enroll in Medicaid. That’s in addition to the 207,020 already enrolled in Medicaid through the exchange.
About 95 percent of the customers are eligible to auto-renew their plans. Of those, Wadleigh anticipates about 65 to 75 percent will do so. Connecticut is one of only two states offering consumers an option to auto-renew their current plans, whereas other states are requiring people to sign up all over again. However, that auto-renew option isn’t going to be available to everyone.
If a person’s income has changed or they have a new address in the state, then that information will need to be verified with the federal data hub. According to Access Health CT officials, that could take up to 90 days in some instances because individuals will be asked to verify the information they’re submitting.
Auto renewal is only for the customers who purchased a plan with one of the private insurance carriers. Medicaid has a different redetermination process, which is running in parallel to the second round of enrollment on the exchange. Medicaid eligible individuals can sign up at any time during the year and receive coverage.
There’s also the issue of subsidies. Even if a person decides to re-enroll in the same plan they had last year, it might cost them more.
It’s a complicated equation, but because there are new baselines and four plans instead of three, the subsidy level will need to be recalculated even for those whose income stays the same.
And while everyone at the press conference Friday was hoping the second year goes smoothly, the first year of the exchange wasn’t without its problems.
A system error caused at least 900 consumers to lose coverage.
During the summer months, Access Health CT officials said the universe of consumers impacted by that system error could have been as many as 5,700. But after it was able to drill down on the issue, it discovered only 900 of the individuals actually lost coverage.
“With a system as complicated as ours there will always be glitches in that,” Wadleigh said. “Do I think that we’ve found most of them? I do.”
However, there’s no guarantee that the federal database, which Connecticut’s exchange draws from to verify information about individuals, will perform as expected.
Connecticut is still working on creating a system that would allow it to independently verify an individual’s information if the federal system goes down. Last year, problems with the federal database delayed enrollment for some Connecticut residents.