Final push for first enrollment in state health insurance exchange

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Wed., Feb. 26, 2014
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2) speaks at a 'Because I Got Covered' press conference on Feb. 24 at the Access Community Action Agency in Willimantic. Photos by Melanie Savage.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-2) speaks at a 'Because I Got Covered' press conference on Feb. 24 at the Access Community Action Agency in Willimantic. Photos by Melanie Savage.

According to Maritza Bond, executive director of Eastern Area Health Education Center (EAHEC), Inc., more than 300,000 people statewide lacked health insurance when Access Health CT launched in October. The public health exchange was created in response to the Affordable Care Act.

“When the exchange was launched, our goal was to enroll 100,000 people within the first year,” said Bond. The state exceeded that goal, announcing the enrollment of more than 120,000 individuals by mid-February, more than a month and a half before the end of open enrollment on March 31.  AHEC is one of six agencies statewide providing Access Health Navigator services, providing outreach and education services to assist consumers in choosing and obtaining health care coverage through the exchange. 

Another Navigator agency, the Access Community Action Agency, held a press conference at its Willimantic location on Feb. 24. The event marked the beginning of the final push to enroll as many uninsured residents as possible by the end of open enrollment. According to a press release, the “Because I Got Covered” campaign, “is a targeted effort in the 14 urban centers across Connecticut that have the highest rates of uninsured residents.”

The Access Community Agency is a nonprofit “serving Tolland and Windham counties with the mission to create the conditions that empower individuals, families and communities to overcome the barriers that impair their ability to be economically stable,” according to the release. “Affordable health care is a key component that effects economic stability for families and individuals,” it says.

“We’re different than many, many other parts of the country in having a functioning system,” said Congressman Joe Courtney (D-2). Courtney cited a New York Times article that placed Connecticut as number one in terms of successful enrollment. As the first enrollment period heads down the home stretch, “Again, I think we’re going to stand out across the country,” said Courtney.

Ashford resident Elizabeth Kassner stood up to speak as a happy customer of the enrollment process. As the owner of a small, home-based business, Kassner had watched her heath care premiums increase year after year. “I was beginning to realize that something would have to give,” she said. Kassner approached the Access Community Agency and was assigned to an assister. She eventually identified a plan that would cost $215 per month with a $250 deductible. “I hope that people understand that the program we now have in place is most likely very affordable,” said Kassner.

A less happy customer was Willimantic resident Charles Guite. Guite had been assisted in identifying an affordable health care plan for himself and his wife. However, he’d been plagued by administrative issues from the beginning of his enrollment process. Lost paperwork, lost payments, even confusion regarding which insurance company he’d signed up with had Guite very frustrated. “I’ve actually been having a nightmare with this,” he said. Fortunately for Guite, Kate Gervais, manager of the assister and navigator programs, was present at the press conference and pledged to help him make his way through the administrative inefficiencies.

Eda Dibiccari, an assister who has been working with clients in the Windham area, said that a wide variety of ages and income levels had come seeking advice. For some, the experience provided their first contact with health insurance. For these clients, Dibiccari had provided information regarding insurance basics such as premiums, co-pays and deductibles. For other clients, the process had involved assistance utilizing the insurance exchange website, which provides a choice of plans, “So that they can choose the one that best fits their needs,” said Dibiccari.

Enrollment workshops are scheduled throughout the month of March at various locations throughout Windham and Tolland counties. For more information, contact 860-450-7400 x7431. View Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace at https://www.accesshealthct.com.


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