HARTFORD, CT — It’s the sixth year of enrollment for individuals purchasing insurance on Connecticut’s health insurance exchange and officials say success would be retaining its current customers.

Access Health CT CEO James Michel said there are approximately 100,000 individuals who purchase their insurance through the exchange.

“Our expectation is that we are going to — at a minimum — maintain where we are currently,” Michel said Thursday.

Enrollment in plans sold through the Access Health CT marketplace has increased reaching 114,134 in 2018. That number has since dropped off to about 97,000 because people fail to pay their premiums or they no longer need coverage because they’re able to obtain health insurance through an employer. The attrition happens every year and is not unusual.

There were 111,524 residents who signed up for plans in 2017 and 116,019 signed up in 2016. The drop in enrollment in 2017 is likely due to the elimination of broker commissions that year. Brokers have since been restored.

But this year is more challenging than most because of the loss of the individual mandate penalty, and a shortened enrollment period of just 45 days.

The individual mandate was created to expand the pool of uninsured individuals who would purchase individual insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The goal was to make sure that younger, healthier individuals would sign up and as such premiums would be kept affordable for everyone.

But the Republican tax bill passed in December 2017 eliminated the individual mandate for 2019.

In 2018, those who didn’t purchase insurance will be asked to pay 2.5 percent of their annual household income or $695 per person, whichever is higher when they file their tax returns in early 2019.

Earlier this year, Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade approved average increases from 12.3 percent to 2.72 percent for the two private insurance plans participating in Connecticut’s individual marketplace.

“While the federal government officially removed the individual mandate penalty for 2019, the Department and carriers accounted for this in the 2018 rates,” Wade said when she approved the rate increases last month.

There’s also a shorter period of time for individuals to sign up for coverage this year. Open enrollment ends on Dec. 15.

After that date, the only way for individuals to get insurance will be to have a “qualifying life event,” such as the loss of insurance through an employer, marriage, or the birth of a child. Pregnancy was also added to that list for 2019 by the Connecticut General Assembly.

There are two insurance companies participating for 2019 — Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Benefits.

Between the two they will offer 17 different plans down from 20 in 2018.

There are also 14 plans being offered off the exchange, but individuals who enroll in those plans won’t be able to receive tax subsidies to lower their monthly premiums. The 17 exchange plans are the only ones where federal subsidies will be given to those who qualify based on their family income.

Consumers can apply online, call AHCT at 855-805-4325, get in-person help at seven enrollment centers, or download the free mobile app.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Access Health CEO James Michel talk about the first day of open enrollment.

Posted by CTNewsJunkie.com on Thursday, November 1, 2018