HARTFORD, CT — As Access Health CT, the state’s insurance exchange, gets ready for its seventh year of enrollment it welcomed three new board members and got some good news about the uninsured rate.

Steven Hernandez, interim executive director for the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity, Cara Passaro, chief legal counsel to the Speaker of the House, and Thomas McNeill, an attorney, joined the board Thursday.

The trio got some good news at their first meeting.

The number of uninsured in Connecticut decreased between 2017 and 2018 by 0.2%, from 5.5% uninsured to 5.3% uninsured in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The numbers, according to officials with Access Health CT, are not statistically significant. However, they said it’s good that they are trending down.

Nationally, 8.5%, or 27.5 million, did not have health insurance at any point during the year in 2018. That’s up from 7.9% in 2017, when 25.6 million people didn’t have insurance.

The number of uninsured went down in the same year that 23,000 people dropped out of the individual health insurance market, which covers mostly self-employed or gig workers who don’t have employer-sponsored insurance plans. The exodus, mostly of unsubsizied individuals from the exchange, was one of the reasons health insurance companies asked for and received rate increases from the Insurance Department.

Last week, the department approved average premium increases of 3.65% for plans sold in the individual marketplace.

ConnectiCare had requested a 4.9% average rate increase and regulators knocked it down to an average of 2% more. However, depending on which ConnectiCare plan a consumer has, they could see changes in the premiums ranging from a decrease of 3.1% to an increase of 8.7%. ConnectiCare currently serves about 75,625 customers.

Anthem’s average requested rate hike of 15.2% was knocked down to an average of 6.5%. Anthem currently covers about 27,318 customers.

In January, 111,066 individuals had enrolled in plans with either ConnectiCare or Anthem Health Plans through the exchange. At the moment, enrollment is around 96,000.

Enrollment for 2020 doesn’t start until Nov. 1, but Access Health CT is working to identify new customers and make sure its old customers return.

Access Health CT CEO James Michel said they will be focusing their outreach efforts in urban areas and to minority communities.

Michel said immigration policy at the federal level is likely to have an impact on enrollment.

However, receiving a subsidy through the exchange to purchase health insurance will not count at part of the Trump administration’s new “public charge” rule. It would only apply to Medicaid, which is another option offered through the exchange based on income eligibility.

The new rule would allow officials to deny a change in immigration status to any individual who has received public assistance, such as food stamps, Medicaid, or even housing assistance in the last three years. It goes into effect on Oct. 15.

“It may impact that many, but people think it will impact them,” Susan Rich-Bye, director of legal and government affairs for Access Health CT, said.

She said there’s still a “fear factor” for individuals.

Department of Social Services Commissioner Deidre Gifford said they’re already hearing from medical providers that there’s a lot of fear in immigrant communities and fewer people are seeking care as a result of publicity about this rule.

“It goes far beyond what’s in the narrow limits of the public charge rule,” Gifford said.

She said it’s good that Connecticut bucked the national trend when it comes to the number of uninsured, but “the concern now is how to hold those gains and make sure we’re communicating with immigrant communities.”