Less than two weeks left in sign-up period for insurance with Access Health CT

With 10 days left in the enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act in Connecticut, nearly 15,000 new customers have signed up with Access Health CT, according to statistics from the marketplace's website.

When this year's shortened enrollment period ends Dec. 22, the sign-up rate is expected to reach about the same level as last year, around 100,000 people, Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh told Connecticut Mirror earlier this month.

By Monday, a total of about 92,000 people had signed up for plans with the two insurance companies selling plans through the marketplace, Anthem and ConnectiCare. Another more than 9,000 people who had plans through Access Health in 2017 had not yet signed up for plans for 2018.

Before the enrollment period began in November, about 98,000 were signed up for health insurance through Access Health CT, and more than 50,000 people in New London County had signed up for either Medicaid or private insurance plans through Access Health.

Access Health officials have pushed hard to encourage people to sign up for insurance through the state's marketplace despite President Donald Trump shortening the enrollment period, cutting payments to insurers that keep middle-class enrollees' premiums down and cutting the national budget for outreach and advertising.

Access Health CT responded by making changes to its in-person enrollment locations, closing two storefronts in New Haven and New Britain and opening enrollment centers in 10 new places, including Norwich. Historically, about half of Access Health enrollees have signed up in person and half have used the www.accesshealthct.com website, according to Wadleigh.

Enrollment at the state level also faced Trump's decision to end cost sharing reductions, payments to insurance companies that sell plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges and kept low-income enrollees' health care costs down.

About 75 percent of Access Health enrollees qualify for cost-sharing reduction payments, and will continue to receive them under the law, regardless of Trump's decision.

But for another 25 percent of current higher-income Access Health enrollees who don't qualify for subsidies, losing the cost-sharing reductions may mean their premiums will shoot up if they re-enroll.

Anna Dunn drove half an hour from Essex on Monday to speak to an Access Health CT representative at the closest of the 10 new enrollment centers, in the offices of the Thames Valley Council for Community Action in Norwich.

The Norwich office at TVCCA's building on West Thames Street is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

After some confusion finding the office — a TVCCA employee did not direct her to the right building at first, and the sign advertising the TVCCA office as the location for insurance sign-ups was obscured by a chair — Dunn scheduled an appointment to assess the plan she has with her husband.

The couple has had health insurance through the Affordable Care Act for many years, she said, but a recent stroke left her husband unable to work and struggling to pay for their current plan.

"It's expensive," she said. "And he had to sell his business."

In addition to opening enrollment centers at 10 locations, Access Health CT has also accepted enrollments over the phone or in person at periodic enrollment fairs across the state.

A final enrollment fair is scheduled on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Eastern Connecticut State University's library in Willimantic.

People can also enroll online at accesshealthCT.com or by calling the marketplace's call center from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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