With the three-month open enrollment period for health insurance coming to a close Sunday at midnight, Connecticut residents flocked to centers throughout the weekend to enroll in coverage through the state’s official insurance marketplace, Access Health CT.
Public access to healthcare has increased in Connecticut this year through the Affordable Care Act, according to Jason Madrak, Access Health CT’s chief marketing officer. More than 500,000 people have enrolled in healthcare in the state since the ACA went into effect in 2010, Madrak said, and almost 130,000 people enrolled this past year. That number is more than twice as many residents as the state had hoped to enroll. In addition, Madrak said overall traffic in the Access Health storefronts has increased by roughly 50 percent since last year.
“We’ve passed several key milestones,” he said. “I think one of the single biggest differences relates to the fact that we’ve gone from a 10 percent uninsured rate to about four percent.”
Under the ACA, consumers must sign up for coverage or receive an exemption by Feb. 15, 2015 to avoid a federal tax penalty. For 2015, the federal penalty for non-coverage is two percent of the total household income, or $325 per individual, $162.50 per child or $975 per family, whichever is higher.
Of the total number of people enrolled, approximately 100,000 people are in commercial insurance and the rest are insured under medicaid coverage, according to Madrak. A press release issued by Access Health CT in January further reported that the state’s Small Business Health Options program enrolled 175 small businesses, helping them establishments save over $2 million annually.
According to Madrak, the rate of enrollment this year is lower than last year’s 208,000 enrollments, however, because there are now fewer uninsured people in Connecticut.
“As a result [of the uninsured rate decreasing], the people we need to reach are simply harder to find,” said Madrak.
Madrak also said the remaining uninsured are less homogenous and more esoteric in their reasons for not getting coverage. This made it difficult, from a communication standpoint, to advertise healthcare with a message that has mass appeal.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman emphasized the importance of Access Health CT’s success in helping spur the state’s economy.
“Access to quality, affordable health care is key to building strong families and a productive workforce,” Wyman said in a press release last week.
Because of its success in enrollments for the past two years, other states have considered adopting a similar model.
According to Howard Forman, Yale professor of diagnostic radiology, economics and public health, Connecticut was proactive at both the executive and legislative level to ensure the state implemented a successful healthcare exchange. He added that Connecticut is also particularly successful at recruiting and retaining talented administrators.
“They put together a great team,” Forman said.
Jim Wadleigh — the former chief information officer at Access Health CT — was appointed interim CEO after former head Kevin Counihan was appointed to oversee Healthcare.gov, the federal health care portal, in late August.
Madrak said that Wadleigh’s familiarity with Access Health CT made for a relatively seamless transition.
In addition to administrative cohesion, Madrak also attributes the enrollment success to the extensive advertising campaign launched by Access Health CT and the federal government.
The campaign focused on 10 specific cities in Connecticut and includes physical storefronts in New Haven and New Britain.