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September 19, 2019Cart

Business

by Fairfield County Business Journal
by FCBJ

Amid Obamacare uncertainty, AHCT soldiers on

Access Health CT would like residents to know a simple fact: It’s still here.

“There’s been a lot of confusion” with all the talk about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, said Access Health CT Director of Marketing Andrea Ravitz. “There was also a lot of coverage about whether our two remaining carriers” — Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield and ConnectiCare — “would remain on the exchange.”

“We’re happy that they’re both back this year,” Ravitz said.

Even so, for 2018 plans, state insurance regulators approved premium rate hikes for Anthem and ConnectiCare averaging 31.7 and 27.7 percent, respectively. It also approved an average rate increase of 25.4 percent for Anthem small-group policies bought by Connecticut businesses and nonprofits, while most ConnectiCare policies sold to individuals off the exchange have an approved rate hike of 27.8 percent.

The increases will vary upon an individual’s specific plan.

Another reason that the exchange is ratcheting up its marketing push is due to the fact that the open enrollment period for 2018 coverage – beginning Nov. 1 and running through Dec. 22, after being extended from Dec. 15 – is the shortest since it was created under the ACA four years ago. Last year, the enrollment period ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, although consumers had to enroll by Dec. 15 if they wanted coverage to begin on Jan. 1, 2017.

The exchange’s first open enrollment period was six months, Ravitz said.

“We are here to remind everyone that the Affordable Care Act is still the law and that Access Health CT is still the only place where they can get financial help,” AHCT CEO Jim Wadleigh said when announcing the extension. “It’s also important to remember that there is still a tax penalty for not having coverage.”

Last year the exchange enrolled 111,524 people during the open enrollment period, with 13,791 first-time enrollees. In addition, 5,000 people came through AHCT seeking dental coverage and 1,467 enrolled in health coverage through its small business program.

AHCT also enrolled 672,000 people in Medicaid, Ravitz said, adding that about 25 percent of that 111,000 were “young invincibles,” ages 18 to 24.

“That brings market stability to our industry,” she said. “It’s extremely important from an acquisition perspective and pretty good from a goal perspective. It speaks to a healthier, more stable population.”

Also worth noting is that AHCT averages an 80 percent retention rate, she said.

“A lot of people leave the exchange because they got a job, left the state, or became eligible for Medicaid/Medicare,” Ravitz explained. “When they leave there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.”

The state’s uninsured rate stood at about 8 percent, or 286,000 people, when the exchange started. That figure now stands at about 3.5 percent, or 125,000 people,
she said.

Access Health will also have 10 enrollment centers open in time for this year’s period, including ones in Bridgeport, Danbury and Stamford, with specific locations expected to be announced next week. Those areas were chosen based on four years’ worth of data where uninsured rates are higher than average, Ravitz said.

The centers are for enrollees and prospective enrollees to ask questions, familiarize themselves with plan options — and of course enroll, she said. “We want to make sure we can provide as much real help as possible, seven days a week,” Ravitz said.

She also noted that about 80 percent of its enrollees receive some kind of financial help — “and that’s not limited to just lower-income people,” she said. “We want to
reinforce that message and make sure that our enrollees aren’t leaving money
on the table.”

Wadleigh said last year., “many of our consumers qualify for financial help and many more residents would qualify, but instead they buy directly from an insurance company — and miss out on the opportunity for financial assistance.”

A media blitz on TV, radio, social networks and mobile platforms will help spread the word, Ravitz said.

“People need to understand that we are not directly affected by what’s been going on in Washington when it comes to marketing and outreach budget cuts,” she said of the numerous legislative efforts that have so far failed to repeal Obama – adding that, even if it changes do occur, they might not go into effect right away.