Access Health CT claims an ‘Olympic bump’

Are the Olympics boosting enrollment in Connecticut’s health insurance exchange?

Access Health CT, as the exchange is known, has been advertising heavily during broadcasts of the winter games, and Chief Marketing Officer Jason Madrak says it's experienced something of an “Olympic bump.”

In the week after the opening ceremony, Access Health's website traffic rose 31 percent over the prior week, the number of accounts created rose by 24 percent, and the number of daily enrollments rose by 67 percent.

Access Health’s television ads might not be the only reason enrollment rose last week. Saturday was the deadline for people to sign up to get coverage that begins March 1.

Whatever led them to sign up, 126,653 people had enrolled in coverage through Access Health as of midnight Tuesday. Of those, 42 percent -- 53,673 -- bought private insurance plans, while the rest will be covered by Medicaid. About two-thirds of the private insurance customers qualified for federal tax credits to subsidize their premiums.

Peter Van Loon, the exchange’s chief operating officer, said the financial status of customers has shifted since the open enrollment process. From October through December, 46 percent of enrollees were buying private insurance. Early on, Connecticut had the highest percentage of customers buying private insurance of any exchange in the country.

Since Jan. 1, however, the share of enrollees buying private insurance has fallen to 36 percent, Van Loon said.

Among people buying private insurance, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield continues to dominate the market, with 60 percent of the customers. That’s down somewhat from last month, when Anthem had 64 percent of the exchange’s customers. The company struggled last month to process customers' payments and get insurance ID cards to new members.

ConnectiCare has gained market share since last month, with 37 percent of the exchange customers, up from 33 percent in January. HealthyCT, a new company, remained steady at 3 percent.

This is a pie chart showing the age breakdown of Access Health CT customers.

Access Health CT

The ages of Access Health CT customers

The age breakdown has also remained relatively steady. Seventeen percent of members are ages 18 to 34, 12 percent are 35 to 44, 24 percent are 45 to 54, and 33 percent are 55 to 64. One percent are 65 and older, while 8 percent are under 18.

Fifty-nine percent selected the midlevel silver plans, while 23 percent chose gold plans, which have the highest premiums but the lowest out-of-pocket costs when members get care. Another 16 percent chose bronze plans, which have lower premiums but higher deductibles, and 2 percent selected catastrophic plans, which are only available to people under 30 and those whose previous plans were discontinued.

Access Health CEO Kevin Counihan said more than 90 percent of customers have paid their premiums, higher than the national average of about 80 percent. The payment rate includes people who had premiums due in January or February, but not people signed up for coverage that begins March 1, whose payments are due at the end of this month.

The exchange had previously been aiming to sign up 100,000 people in coverage this year, but met that goal earlier this month.  Counihan said officials are now predicting that membership will be closer to 140,000 to 150,000 when the open-enrollment period ends March 31.

There are rumors that the federal government could extend the open enrollment period, and Counihan said the exchange’s senior team is preparing to keep the sign-up period open through the end of May if necessary. “We want to be prepared just in case it is,” he said.

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About Arielle Levin Becker

Arielle Levin Becker was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on home caretakers from the National Association of Health Journalists. Arielle previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter. She also has covered education and municipal beats for The Courant and for the Home News Tribune of East Brunswick, N.J. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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