GOP senator wants hearing on Access Health CT problems

December 19, 2013

Article as it appeared in the CT Mirror
By Keith M. Phaneuf
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The top Republican on the legislature’s insurance committee wants the head of Connecticut’s health exchange to answer more questions — publicly — about problems with the system.

And Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, also wants lawmakers to conduct a public hearing to allow consumers to vent their frustrations with Connecticut’s efforts to implement the federal Affordable Care Act.

Kevin Counihan, the CEO of Access Health CT, appeared before the Insurance and Real Estate Committee on Nov. 22, but that stop “raised more questions than answers,” Kelly said during a late-morning press conference in the Legislative Office Building.

The Stratford lawmaker outlined several issues that he insists need answers, or at least more details.

For example, Kelly said he learned through media reports earlier this month that about 2,400 individuals received incorrect information while purchasing coverage in October. According to exchange officials, there were errors in the information displayed on the system web pages listing plan designs.

And although the Connecticut operation is being held up nationally as an example of a system that is working well, issues also remain regarding the usability of the exchange web site.

“We should know when they discovered issues on their site, who knew about them, and what decisions were made outside of the public eye,” Kelly said. And though he didn’t provide specific numbers, the senator said he has received “numerous” informal complaints from the residents of his district.

But Counihan wrote in a statement released late Wednesday afternoon that the exchange not only corrected the information on the website and identified it with a prominent yellow box and red letters, but also sent letters and made telephone calls to all affected individuals to ensure they had correct data.

Kelly said he also is concerned about thousands of residents whose insurance policies either have been or will be discontinued before the year’s end.

Health plans that were in effect before the federal health law took effect in March 2010 can be renewed as long as they don’t change significantly, even though they don’t meet the law’s requirements. These plans are known as “grandfathered,” and aren’t open to new members.

Although insurers are not required to cancel grandfathered plans, they don’t have to continue them. This fall, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest insurer, told members their grandfathered plans, about 15,000, were being discontinued.

Dec. 23 is the deadline for people who want to buy private insurance through Access Health and have coverage by Jan. 1.

But the exchange will continue to accept enrollment for private insurance through March 31, and people can apply for Medicaid at any point in the year. Access Health’s goal is to have 100,000 people signed up for coverage in 2014.

“We are moving along at a very brisk pace as it relates to actually enrolling people in coverage,” exchange spokesman Jason Madrak said during a meeting of the state’s Health Care Cabinet earlier this month.