Christine Stuart photo
Access Health CT CEO James Wadleigh (Christine Stuart photo)

Connecticut’s uninsured rate has fallen to 3.8 percent, according to an analysis provided to Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health insurance exchange.

The rate was determined using primary and secondary sources of information from the exchange, the Kaiser Family Foundation, U.S. Census, and Insurance Department.

The number of uninsured in Connecticut has dropped since the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014.

In 2012, the Kaiser Family Foundation found there were about 286,000 uninsured residents in Connecticut. That’s about 7.9 percent of the state’s population. In 2014, the first year of the exchange, state officials estimated based on a survey that the uninsured rate had gotten down to 4 percent. After the second full year, it’s down to 3.8 percent, or about 137,000 individuals. That means an estimated 10,000 residents gained insured in 2015.

The U.S. Census survey found 6.9 percent of Connecticut residents were uninsured in 2014, but Acturus, the company that did the analysis for Access Health CT, said those self-reported numbers don’t jibe with the hard data. They said when compared with actual data about how many residents received insurance through the exchange or Medicaid expansion the number is closer to 3.8 percent.

Either way the number of uninsured in Connecticut is going down.

“This is good news for Connecticut,”  said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who co-chairs the Access Health CT Board of Directors.

The goal going into the third year of enrollment will be to retain the customers Access Health CT already has and find the dwindling population of uninsured.

“We want to make sure that everybody who can afford health care can get on,” Wyman said.

Access Health CT CEO James Wadleigh said the second year was “tricky because you have people coming on and off the exchange and those uninsured residents are harder to find and enroll.”

But that’s not a complaint, because the numbers are going in the right direction, Wadleigh said.

Who are these 3.8 percent?

Chris Barnes, senior vice president of Acturus the company which determined the uninsured rate, said a large portion of those uninsured are at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale. But it’s not easy to pinpoint why they are uninsured.

“They often are uninsured for idiosyncratic reasons,” Barnes said. “And the remaining are part of a churn population.”

He said they continue to run into people who explain they didn’t sign up because they thought their circumstances would be different. He used the example of a woman who was planning to get married and thought she would be on her husband’s insurance plan, but they ended up not tying the knot.

In general, if you’re someone who had always had insurance through an employer, you’re not paying attention to the marketing Access Health is doing, Barnes said.

Wadleigh said they are finding individuals here and there without insurance, but tracking down those individuals in the community is a lot harder today than it was in 2013.

He said the number of uninsured is significant because it helps inform the organization’s decisions regarding marketing and operations.

“There’s pride there,” Wadleigh said.

Wadleigh said the goal in the first few years of the exchange was to lower the uninsured rate, but as more and more residents get insured, that goal is going to change.

The new goals may revolve around: “How do we get to health care literacy? How do we get to primary care physician utilization?” Wadleigh said.

Viewed as a pyramid, the bottom is enrollment, but the top “is a healthier Connecticut,” Wadleigh said.

In 2014, the exchange enrolled about 110,000 residents and saw a 14 percent attrition rate. Wadleigh said he anticipated 105,000 to 115,000 residents will enroll for 2016. He expects enrollment to be on the higher end of that range since the fine for not being insured is bigger than it has been in the past.

Under the terms of the federal Affordable Care Act, if an individual or family doesn’t have insurance in 2016, they will have to pay a fine equal to 2.5 percent of their annual income, or a maximum of $695 per adult. The maximum family penalty is $2,085. It is assessed through the federal income tax return filing process.

Enrollment for 2016 begins on Nov. 1.