Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Access Health CT CEO James Michel gets a tour of the CRT enrollment center. (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Enrollment for 2020 health insurance plans began last week and officials working with Access Health CT are targeting the uninsured population.

Connecticut’s uninsured rate was 5.3% percent or around 186,000 individuals in 2018. That’s up from an eight-year low of 4.9% in 2016, according to an Access Health CT report on the uninsured population. However, it’s much lower than the 9.4% uninsured in 2013 before people could purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“We can tell you within a five square block radius of where the uninsured are living,” Access Health CT CEO James Michel said.

This year’s open enrollment campaign is using additional resources to target those areas with door-knocking and community outreach through places like the Community Renewal Team in Hartford. CRT is a community action agency that offers everything from behavioral health services to home energy assistance.

“We need boots on the ground to get them access,” Michel said last week during a tour of CRT’s enrollment center in the basement of its 300 Market Street offices. “We have to meet people where they are.”

More than 5,000 people are served by CRT’s Market Street location and there are four to five people now to help them enroll in an insurance plan or Medicaid, depending on their income. CRT was one of three navigators chosen this year by Access Health CT to assist with enrollment. The agency serves more than 67,000 individuals and over 28,000 families throughout Connecticut.

He said the reason most folks go without insurance is because they don’t believe it’s affordable.

The study Access Health CT did on the uninsured population found the number one reason people didn’t get insurance is because they assumed coverage would not be affordable. The second reason was that the “premium costs appear too high because third-party insurance sellers present plan options that do not offer premium assistance.” And the third reason was because they “can’t make an additional monthly cost work in their financial reality,” the report found.

Further down on the list was that they didn’t believe they needed it or were ineligible for federal subsidies and priced out of the marketplace as a result.

“A lot of folks who are uninsured qualify for Medicaid,” Michel said.

While Access Health CT is encouraging people to shop and compare plans for 2020, an estimated 80% will auto-renew their 2019 plans.

However, that could come at a cost, especially for those who don’t receive any subsidies.

The 50% of consumers who will see a decrease in their premiums are those who receive a federal subsidy, according to Wakley, an actuarial consulting firm whose data was included in the presentation at the Access Health CT board meeting last month. Premiums are what consumers pay on a monthly basis that gives them access to insurance.

Based solely on premiums, the report by Wakely found a majority of consumers who are not eligible for federal subsidies and are in gold plans will see an average $116-per-month increase. Those in silver plans will see an average $66-per-month increase, and those in bronze plans will see a $59-per-month increase. A small number of those consumers who don’t receive subsidies will receive a slight reduction in rates depending on what plan they are on.

The uninsured research found that individuals who are self-employed at their own non-incorporated business account for 14.1% of the uninsured population and those who have worked less than full-time over the last 12 months are 37.6% of the uninsured population.

“When considered together, these findings could indicate that individuals who are self-employed, including contract, freelance workers, or sole-proprietorships, should be key areas of focus for Access Health CT,” the research concluded.

This year Access Health CT is focusing on the uninsured.

Michel said if they don’t get out and start knocking on doors then these residents are not going to know what they are missing.

“In 2019, we enrolled close to ten thousand people who were brand new to our system, and we are looking to continue to increase that number for 2020,” Michel said.

Aside from focusing on populations with a high propensity of being insured, Access Health CT will be doing in-home events like “Tupperwear parties” and they will try and meet people where they are like barber shops.

There will also be 30 enrollment fairs in 23 towns and there will be two enrollment centers one in the Raymond Library in East Hartford and one in the Ferguson Liberty in Stamford.

Enrollment began on Nov. 1 and goes through Dec. 15 for anyone who wants to be covered starting on Jan. 1, 2020.