CTNewsJunkie file photo
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy at the Access Health CT New Britain store back in 2013. (CTNewsJunkie file photo)

With less than a month left to sign up for health insurance, Access Health CT announced last week that 104,495 customers had enrolled with one of the two private health insurance companies on the exchange.

An estimated 34,620 had signed up for plans with Anthem, and 69,875 had signed up for plans with ConnectiCare.

Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh said enrollment is “nearly identical” to last year.

Last year about 116,000 residents signed up for plans, but only about 99,038 customers remained in October 2016. That’s because some stop paying their premiums or get employer-sponsored insurance or qualify for Medicaid.

Anyone who is still looking to sign up for insurance has until Jan. 31. Those who sign up before Jan. 15 will have coverage starting on Feb. 1 and those who sign up after that will have coverage starting on March 1.

Access Health officials stressed that federal law states that everyone has to have insurance coverage. The federal penalty for those who fail to get insurance is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child. That fine is up to a maximum of three people in a home or up to 2.5 percent of your household income, whichever is higher.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that as of Dec. 24, 2016,  more than 11.5 million people nationwide were signed up for coverage, which is an increase of 286,000 plan selections compared to the same period last year.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, growing demand for coverage refutes predictions that 2017 premiums changes would lead to sharp declines in enrollment and a so-called “death spiral.”

The U.S. Senate began debate on repealing the Affordable Care Act on Monday. The ACA, also known as Obamacare, is the basis for Connecticut’s insurance exchange and allows about 60 percent of those participating to receive tax subsidies that are applied to their monthly premiums.

But even before debate began, Republicans were expressing concern about repealing the law without having a plan to replace it.

Late Monday, according to Bloomberg News, five Republican Senators filed a resolution that would delay the repeal of Obamacare until March 3. The current legislation says Jan. 27.

On Monday around 11:40 p.m. U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said the Affordable Care Act has not failed for the 20 million Americans who have come to rely on it.

“There is no doubt the Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect. Medicare wasn’t perfect when it was passed. We amended that sucker 18 different times,” Murphy said. “The Affordable Care Act needs to be amended and perfected as well.”

He told his Republican colleagues if they really believe in helping people and not political headlines than the prescription here is “stop. Take a step back. Don’t lurch the entire health care economy into chaos when you don’t have to.”

He said he’s certain President-elect Donald Trump is going to be president for the next two years that the Republicans will hold majorities in both chambers for at least the next 24 months.

“You’ve got time,” Murphy said. “You don’t need to prove some point to the political talk show hosts.”

Trump is expected to be asked about how Congress should proceed Wednesday during his first news conference since July.