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With the deadline approaching for online enrollment and tax subsidies, a final push is on to get as many people signed up for health insurance through the state's online marketplace as possible over the next three weeks.
"We're hoping to enroll large numbers of people before the March 31 open enrollment deadline," said Maritza Bond, executive director of the Eastern Area Health Education Center, the Willimantic-based organization that has partnered with Access Health CT, the state's online insurance marketplace, to promote the program in New London and Middlesex counties.
Eastern AHEC has scheduled a series of enrollment fairs beginning this week. Thus far, she said, about 1,000 people in New London and Middlesex counties have signed up for health insurance coverage with the help of assisters trained by AHEC and working out of social service and health organizations and pharmacies. Since most of those still uninsured are in New London and Norwich, those communities will be the focus of outreach efforts, she said.
In addition to the 1,000 enrolled through the assisters, many others have enrolled on their own through the website, www.accesshealthct.com, its call center or through a private broker.
Kathleen Tallarita, government and public affairs outreach manager for Access Health CT, said 141,233 residents statewide have signed up for health insurance through Access Health CT, created as the state's response to the federal Affordable Care Act. That surpasses the agency's goal of 100,000 new sign-ups in the first year.
After March 31, no one will be able to enroll in insurance through the online marketplace or qualify for the tax subsidies being offered, "unless they have a life-changing event" such as a job loss, Tallarita said. The next time open enrollment will be offered will be in November.
Under federal law, those without insurance for three consecutive months will be assessed an annual penalty of about $95 per year or 1 percent of their total household income, whichever is higher, Tallarita said.
Between now and March 31, Access Health CT is also sponsoring enrollment fairs around the state - including the March 15 event at Otis Library in Norwich - and will schedule more, she said. She also urged people to visit federally qualified health centers, such as the Community Health Center in New London and Groton, where assisters can help people sign up, contact the call center or access the website themselves.
"We want to make sure people have every opportunity to enroll," she said.
At the Eastern AHEC enrollment fairs, there will be teams of assisters who can work with people one on one to "walk them through the enrollment process," Bond said. Brokers will also be at the events to answer questions about specific plans. The website offers three levels of plans from three private companies, and can also determine whether someone is eligible for Medicaid or HUSKY.
The services at the enrollment fairs are provided for free. Bond said those who come to the fairs to sign up for insurance should bring the names and Social Security numbers of all their family members, their most recent W2 form and citizenship information.
Local enrollment fairs
■ 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Groton Public Library
■ 5:30 to 8 p.m. Monday, Shiloh Family Center, 1 Garvin St., New London
■ 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Planned Parenthood, 45 Franklin St., New London
■ 4 to 8 p.m. March 14, The Medicine Shoppe, 613 Broad St., New London
■ 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 15, Old Saybrook Shopping Center, 105 Elm St.
■ Noon to 4 p.m. March 15, Otis Library, Norwich
■ 3 to 7 p.m. March 18, Old Saybrook Shopping Center
■ 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 18, Three Rivers Community College, 574 New London Turnpike, Norwich
■ 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 22, Waterford Public Library
■ 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 27, Grace Episcopal Church, 336 Main St., Old Saybrook
For information or to schedule an appointment, call Victoria Lowe at (860) 465-8281, ext. 103, or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on Access Health CT, visit: www.accesshealthct.com.
The Access Health CT call center can be reached at: (855) 805-4325.