Courtesy of Access Health CT

HARTFORD, CT — With the economy still struggling, the need to purchase health insurance is increasing as the Dec. 15 deadline to purchase a plan through Access Health CT looms.

An estimated 5,632 Connecticut residents, who previously haven’t purchased plans through the exchange, signed up for plans through the Access Health CT, which opened on Nov. 1. As of Nov. 16, more than 12,000 of the approximately 100,000 customers with plans in 2020 have renewed their plans for 2021.

That leaves more than 80,000 customers needing to renew or shop for a new plan by Dec. 15.

Access Health CEO James Michel said they are seeing a modest increase in enrollment based on last year’s numbers at this time.

“This year is like any other year, so it’s hard to predict how things are going to end up,” Michel said Monday during a Zoom press conference with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz.

He said some employers have furloughed or laid off employees but have given them the option to stay on the employer-sponsored insurance plan through the end of the year.

“We have no idea what impact that’s going to have,” Michel said.

Losing a job would be considered a qualifying event that would allow a person to purchase health insurance on the exchange outside of the typical enrollment period.

Victoria Veltri, a member of the Access Health CT board and the head of the Office of Health Strategy, said Monday that “coverage is really critical to be able to access care. It’s almost a prerequisite in most cases to getting good, solid health care.”

But for the past two years there has been no penalty for people who decide to go without health insurance.

In 2017, after attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which allows states like Connecticut to set up their own insurance exchange, Congress reduced the individual mandate penalty to $0 effective in 2019 as part of tax reform legislation.

However, even though there is no penalty, Veltri said anyone can face an unexpected health care need even those who are young.

Veltri said the state is experiencing an “unprecedented crisis” and now is the time to take advantage of the enrollment period, which ends Dec. 15 for plans that will cover you in 2021.

“Having coverage offers people peace of mind so that you don’t face unnecessary medical bills when you do need access to health care,” Veltri said.

There are federal subsidies and about 75% of the people who enroll with one of two private carriers on the exchange will receive financial help. And the overall increase to plans is less than in previous years so 50% of returning customers are expected to have no increase or lower monthly net premium in 2021.

An estimated 55% of customers are purchasing silver plans.

There are several ways to purchase a plan. Either through the website, the call center, a broker, or through an appointment at one of the six in-person enrollment locations. There’s more information at AccessHealthCT.