100,314 signed up for Obamacare coverage to start 2016

The Access Health CT storefront in New Britain shortly after 10 a.m. Most of those in the waiting area were exchange staff.

Arielle Levin Becker / CTMirror.org

The Access Health CT storefront in New Britain on Dec. 15, the deadline for signing up for health plans that would take effect Jan. 1.

Just over 100,000 people are signed up to receive private insurance coverage as of Jan. 1 through Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange.

But exchange officials expressed concern that thousands of current customers could lose their coverage or the federal tax credits that discount their premiums at the start of the new year.

Approximately 11,000 of the 100,314 people slated to be covered in January are new customers. Of the rest, about 80 percent were automatically renewed into their current plans, exchange spokeswoman Kathleen Tallarita said.

Last year at this time, about 86,000 people had signed up for coverage scheduled to take effect at the start of the year.

The open enrollment period runs through Jan. 31, but people had to sign up by Dec. 15 to have coverage that takes effect Jan. 1. Those who sign up by Jan. 15 will have coverage that takes effect Feb. 1, while those who sign up after that will begin coverage March 1.

Access Health officials have said their goal for this enrollment period is 105,000 to 115,000 signups – in the range of the previous enrollment period, when 110,095 people signed up.

The number of people who stayed covered through the exchange dropped during 2015; in October, enrollment was down to 95,601.

And officials are concerned many current customers could lose coverage soon.

According to the exchange, about 8,200 current customers have not given permission to have their coverage automatically renewed and did not sign up on their own. In addition, approximately 1,100 people who now receive federal tax credits to discount their premiums will lose those discounts next month because they received tax credits in 2014 but did not file tax returns for that year, as is required by law. Earlier this month, the exchange reported that figure was 2,200.

Access Health CEO Jim Wadleigh said in a statement released Tuesday that exchange officials are “very concerned” about those customers.

“It’s easy to understand at this busy time of year that there are things on people’s minds other than filing paperwork or filling out forms online. But the bottom line is that there are thousands of people who are about to either lose their federal tax credit, or lose their insurance completely, if they don’t act,” Wadleigh said.

People with questions about their household’s tax filing status can check online through an interactive tax assistant by clicking here or call the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-1040.

Past experience suggests that the 8,200 current customers whose coverage wasn’t renewed will come back for coverage later in the enrollment period, Tallarita said.

About 167,000 people were covered by individual-market plans sold in Connecticut this year, according to insurance company filings from earlier in the year. Those figures include plans sold through the exchange and outside it.

Exchange officials have said there was significant flux in the marketplace’s membership, with thousands of people dropping off coverage and thousands signing up throughout the year. Wadleigh said recently that the exchange will be stricter in the coming year about allowing people to sign up outside the open enrollment period, something that is supposed to be reserved for people whose previous coverage was affected by life changes, such as losing a job, getting married or getting divorced.

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