From all indications, the second enrollment for Obamacare is going smoothly for Connecticut residents. But then, Connecticut residents had a relatively easy time the first go-round, even while the federal exchange’s website crashed beneath the weight of would-be applicants. If enrollment is easier all around this time, the law itself faces some of its toughest challenges. The Supreme Court will hear a case that will examine the legality of important federal subsides that help low- and middle-income Americans pay for policies in states that haven’t set up their own exchanges. At issue is the law’s language that refers to subsidies being paid in exchanges “established by the state.” Roughly 4 million people receive those subsidies.
Connecticut consumers who carefully consider their health status and financial needs stand to reap the greatest benefits when shopping for insurance during the 2015 open enrollment period. The enrollment period to purchase coverage at Access Health CT (AHCT), the online marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, runs from Nov. 15, 2014, to Feb. 15, 2015. The law requires most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fine when they file their federal income taxes.
A unique campaign spearheaded by Yale School of Medicine students to encourage uninsured young adults to sign up for health coverage by the federal March 31 deadline has galvanized student groups across Connecticut and the country. The Students for a Better Healthcare System (SBHS) campaign has reached more than 600 residents of all ages and health care providers through dozens of presentations at schools, churches, physician practices, medical clinics and other greater New Haven sites. The University of Connecticut School of Medicine has joined the effort to reach Hartford area residents and 33 schools nationwide have expressed interest in bringing the campaign to their local communities. “The most important thing we can do right now is help people sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act,” said Matthew Meizlish, a SBHS co-founder who just completed his term as co-president of Yale’s chapter of the American Medical Student Association. “Our goal is to expand access to health care and to engage our communities in building a better health care system.”
Consumers have until March 31 to sign up for coverage to avoid a tax penalty.
Cheila Serrano knows educating Hispanics who are uninsured and underinsured about the new options available at Access Health CT – the health insurance marketplace that opens for business today – presents a unique set of problems.
But with one in every four Hispanics lacking coverage, Serrano, a program director at Junta for Progressive Action in New Haven, is up for the challenge. Connecticut’s Hispanics represent the fastest-growing, youngest and poorest segment of the state’s population. Estimates of Connecticut’s uninsured vary. Approximately 344,000 people lack health insurance in Connecticut and 65 percent of the state’s uninsured are minorities, according to data being used by Access Health. Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in September, however, put the uninsured at 284,000.
Connecticut consumers who buy insurance on the new exchange will pay some of the highest premiums in the nation, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released Wednesday. While the report lauds lower-than-expected prices nationwide, it shows that the premium for a benchmark insurance plan, dubbed a “second lowest cost silver plan,” would cost an average of $436 a month in Connecticut – 33 percent higher than the national average, and fourth-highest in the country after Alaska, Mississippi and Wyoming. State exchanges, including Connecticut’s Access Health CT, will offer “bronze,” “silver“ and “gold” policies that vary in coverage, deductibles and co-pays. Consumers can begin to enroll for insurance on Oct. 1, with coverage beginning Jan.
Time is running out for thousands of uninsured Connecticut residents who must decide whether to comply with a federal mandate to buy health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a penalty instead. “We are undertaking a paradigm shift in how we think about health insurance,” said Dan M. Smolnik, a tax attorney from Brookfield. “We don’t know for sure how people in Connecticut will respond. But I think the majority will weigh the risks of not having health insurance and make a rational decision that isn’t purely based on economics.