Republican Lawmaker Questions Access Health CT’s Success

December 19, 2013

Republican Lawmaker Questions Access Health CT’s Success
by Christine Stuart | Dec 18, 2013

Sen. Kevin Kelly, a Republican from Shelton who voted against a 2011 bill that created Connecticut’s insurance exchange, held a press conference Wednesday to say that he wants to make sure residents who lost coverage under the federal law are able to get it.

In Connecticut, the Insurance Department determined back in November that 38,561 policies will not be continued under the Affordable Care Act. That means residents with those policies will have to find new health insurance plans either through the exchange or outside the exchange.

“Every policyholder in the individual market was offered either early renewals of their existing policies, or if their policies were being discontinued, were offered ACA compliant policies by their carrier,” according to Access Health CT. “No one was left without an option for coverage as required by law.”

At a hearing on Nov. 22, officials from the Insurance Department told the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee that they spoke to all of the carriers to find out if they would take advantage of President Barack Obama’s offer to continue offering the non-compliant plans in Connecticut.

“The simple answer is that they would not,” a memo from the Insurance Department reads.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy decided back on Nov. 22 that the state would not take Obama up on his offer to give insurance companies an opportunity to continue those plans for one year.

“The insurance companies have made it clear that the policies they have not extended, they are not going to extend,” Malloy said. “They’ve also made it clear some people have misinterpreted the information that’s out there and not renewed when they could have. And they also pointed out a lot of people who could renew have renewed.”
Kelly, who is the ranking Republican member of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said that the idea behind the Affordable Care Act is to insure more people, not fewer people.

“Now that we have this law and we have this program we need to make sure that it works,” Kelly said.

Access Health CT maintains that’s exactly what it’s doing. “To date, we have enrolled over 46,000 members, over half of whom enrolled in private health insurance plans, the highest percentage in the country,” Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan said Wednesday in a statement.

Frustrated with the lack of information from Access Health CT, the quasi-public agency in charge of Connecticut’s insurance exchange, Kelly held a press conference Wednesday at the Legislative Office Building to highlight a number of issues raised in recent news reports.

He pointed to the 2,400 policies sold to residents while incorrect pricing information was being displayed on the exchange website.

Inaccuracies regarding deductibles and co-insurance rates impacting all 19 individual health plans were discovered Sept. 26, Counihan said last week. But the decision was made to go live with the website on Oct. 1 regardless of the errors in the system.

Counihan has said that around Sept. 29 his team brought the problem to the Connecticut Insurance Department, which agreed that it would be a good idea to create a warning statement for the website. He said the warning was placed in three locations on the site, and those have since been removed after the rate information was corrected.

“I do not believe that this situation was handled in a transparent manner by Access Health CT, and I would like to know exactly what went wrong, who knew about the issues, and what was done,” Kelly wrote in Wednesday’s letter to Counihan.

Counihan said last week that the issue was resolved by the end of October and that the 2,400 policyholders were contacted by both phone and letter to make sure the plan they chose was the one they wanted.

But aside from early failures, Kelly said he’s hearing “numerous” complaints from his constituents about the usability of the website.

“The process of signing up for health insurance through the site can take as long as three hours, according to some of the complaints I have heard,” Kelly wrote in his letter to Counihan. “These technical issues may not be as widespread as the problems faced by the federal insurance exchange, but they do exist in Connecticut.”

Kelly said his goal is to make sure that people who want to purchase insurance on the exchange have an opportunity to do that.

For those who want coverage on Jan. 1 the deadline to sign up is midnight Monday, Dec. 23. Open enrollment will go through the end of March and anyone can purchase a plan if they lose insurance through an employer or experience any number of other life changing events.

In an effort to serve an increasing number of customers as that first deadline approaches, Access Health CT said it increased call center staff by over 80 percent in the past week to better serve the significantly higher call volume.