HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 1:20 p.m.)Today was supposed to be the last day to purchase health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, but according to an internal memo sent to brokers by Access Health CT, Connecticut is extending the deadline to Jan. 15.
The deadline for Connecticut residents to enroll was originally midnight Saturday, but officials with the state health insurance exchange are discovering lower enrollment and more sticker shock this year.
The memo to brokers that was obtained by CTNewsJunkie Saturday morning states: “Q: Is Access Health CT promoting (advertising) this extension actively? A: There will be an official announcement to the media on 12/17, after that time, we will be contacting customers directly (email, direct mail, text, etc.) but we will not invest in media efforts.”
Access Health CT sent a press release Saturday at 1 p.m. confirming the decision to extend the deadline
Access Health CT has spent about $4 million in its marketing efforts this year, which is similar to amounts they’ve spent in past years.
Consumers will have an additional month to choose plans as they experience bigger increases in monthly premiums even though the increases approved by insurance regulators were lower.
“The average rate filings this year were lower than they have been before, but changes to plan options and subsidies have made some plan premiums go up this year,” the internal broker Access Health CT memo announcing the deadline extension states.
Access Health CT reported Friday that 102,412 residents had completed the enrollment process for 2019 or renewed their 2018 plans. That’s down from the 114,000 residents at the end of open enrollment last year.
The enrollment extension means anyone who signs up for coverage by midnight tonight will have coverage starting on Jan. 1, 2019. Anyone who signs up after that date but before Jan. 15 will have coverage starting Feb. 1, 2019.
“With this extension, Access Health CT is encouraging customers who are currently covered by an insurance plan for 2019 to come and evaluate their options as they may find savings or lower premiums by choosing a different plan that better fits their needs and budget,” Access Health CT CEO James Michel said.
Meanwhile, a ruling by a Texas judge late Friday night threw out the 2010 Affordable Care Act in its entirety less than 24 hours before the end of its sixth open enrollment.
The judge agreed with a group of 20 Republican attorneys general who felt a change in tax law last year that eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance invalidated the entire law.
Outgoing Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, whose administration oversaw implementation of the ACA, said the decision “defies logic and puts health coverage for millions of people and tens of thousands of Connecticut residents at risk.”
He said if this decision is allowed to stand people with pre-existing conditions will once again be denied coverage when they get sick.
“Republicans in Washington and Connecticut have spent years trying to do exactly what this ruling would impose,” Malloy tweeted. “It’s nothing short of despicable, and Connecticut will fight in court to preserve the #ACA.”
The White House issued a statement Friday saying “We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”
Attorney General George Jepsen is representing Connecticut in appealing the decision along with a group of Democratic attorneys general across the country.
“The decision in the Texas ACA case is flat-out wrong, contrary to the law and contrary to the democratically expressed will of the people,” Jepsen said Saturday. “We are actively discussing next steps in the case with our colleagues in other states, and we anticipate joining them in appealing this decision.”
Access Health CT wants to let Connecticut residents know that the Texas ruling does not affect their ability to sign up for and use 2019 health insurance plans through Access Health CT.
“Access Health CT is the official marketplace under the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut and we are committed to upholding the ACA and the support it provides to the residents of our state,” Michel, said. “We will not let this news get in the way of fulfilling our mission to reduce the rate of the uninsured and help Connecticut residents get health insurance coverage for them and their families.”