Connecticut health insurance customers will have fewer private companies to choose from when they sign up for coverage beginning next week, but one more than customers will find in other parts of the country.
Two insurers, Anthem and ConnectiCare, will offer plans to individuals through Access Health CT, beginning November 1, the first day of open enrollment for coverage that takes effect next year. There were a high of four insurers during last year's open enrollment period, but United Healthcare and HealthyCT are no longer participating. The two had the smallest shares of Access Health CT customers.
Despite a decline in choices, coupled with higher premium payments for many participants, Access Health CT officials said they're hopeful overall enrollment in private health insurance plans offered on the exchange will climb, from about 100,000 today to possibly 115,000 to 125,000.
"I'm always worried that negative publicity can be construed by our customers that the exchange is not on stable footings and that is not correct," said Jim Wadleigh, chief executive officer of Access Health CT. "We are here to offer health insurance through two very good carriers."
An analysis by The Associated Press and consulting firm Avalere Health, released Friday, found about one-third of U.S. counties will have only one health marketplace insurer next year. That's more than 1,000 counties in 26 states – roughly double the number of counties in 2014. Citing big financial losses, several marquee insurers, including United Healthcare, have sharply scaled back participation in the health insurance marketplaces created by President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
In Connecticut HealthyCT was barred by state regulators from writing new policies because of its financial condition.
Wadleigh said Access Health CT is reaching out to HealthyCT customers to make sure they understand they will have t o enroll with another plan. To have coverage that begins Jan. 1, people must be enrolled by Dec. 15. Open enrollment ends Jan. 31.
Besides using the exchange's website, at www.accesshealthct.com, consumers can contact the call center at 855-805-4325 or visit Access Health CT's storefronts in New Britain and New Haven. Community organizations are also providing enrollment assistance in East Hartford, Norwich and Stamford.
When they enroll, customers will find higher premiums.
The Department of Insurance in September approved an average 22.4 percent increase for Anthem plans offered to individuals on and off the state's exchange and an average 17.4 percent increase for individual plans offered on the exchange by ConnectiCare. Wadleigh noted that 75 percent of Access Health CT's customers receive payment help from the federal government.
"A majority of those customers are actually paying $100 a month for health care," he said. "Is that everyone? No."