Enrollment in state health insurance exchange ahead of expectations

February 11, 2014

By Paul Hughes | Article as it appeared in the Republican-American

NEW HAVEN — People looking for help filed into the New Haven office of the state health insurance exchange Monday morning as state officials announced enrollments are running ahead of initial expectations.

Access Health CT has surpassed its self-imposed goal of signing up 100,000 residents and small businesses before an open enrollment period ends March 31. Some 121,983 enrollees had signed up for private insurance or Medicaid with seven weeks left.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment and, really, a momentous milestone to have reached,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said.

A ranking Republican lawmaker called the initial enrollment target an arbitrary goal and Monday’s celebration premature.

These early enrollment figures do not indicate whether the health insurance exchange will achieve the levels its needs to reach its goal of self-sufficiency, said Sen. Kevin C. Kelly, R-Stratford, the ranking Senate Republican on the Insurance and Real Estate Committee.

“We are still missing key pieces of data to properly assess the success of Access Health CT,” Kelly said. “Right now, we cannot tell if we are on track or in trouble.”

Malloy is feeling confident based on the initial response during open enrollment. Sign-ups started Oct. 1.

“I think we are looking pretty good,” he said.

The health insurance exchange has been relying on federal grants, but that funding is due to run out at the end of 2014. Starting next year, Access Health CT expects to sustain its operations through an assessment on all insurers that sell health plans in Connecticut.

The 2011 legislation that established the exchange authorized Access Health CT to charge assessments and user fees on health carriers to fund its ongoing operations.

Access Health CT has forecast that its operating needs will run in the neighborhood of $35 million annually. This year’s operating budget is $32.8 million. The exchange also budgeted $2 million for depreciation. .

Kevin Counihan, the CEO of Access Health CT, agreed with the governor’s assessment of the exchange’s ability to fund its operations. He also expressed confidence that enrollments have reduced the percentage of uninsured residents from 8.6 percent to less than 8 percent.

Counihan said Access Health is still doing analysis to determine how many people had been without health insurance.

“Is that the end and be all? Absolutely not, but for the first year it is good progress,” he said

Kelly also questioned this preliminary conclusion.

“We do not know how many enrollees did not have insurance previously, so it is impossible to determine how Access Health CT impacted the state’s uninsured population,” he said.

Access Health CT reported that 121,398 enrollees had been signed up for private insurance coverage or Medicaid through the close of business on Sunday.

Of that number, 50,655 enrolled in private insurance plans, and the remaining 71,318 were enrolled in Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health coverage..

The Affordable Care Act that established the exchanges also permitted states to greatly expand Medicaid coverage for poor adults up to age 65. Access Health CT reports that 22,335 of the Medicaid enrollees were eligible under the old income limits. Another 48,983 qualified under the Medicaid expansion.