Connecticut is only state enrolling more in private insurance than Medicaid under Obamacare

Connecticut is the only state in the country in which more people have applied for private coverage than Medicaid through the health insurance exchange, an exchange official said Tuesday.

James Wadleigh, Access Health CT’s chief information officer, said the state’s exchange has taken more than 11,000 applications for individual and small-business coverage. About 6,000 are for private insurance customers, and about 4,700 will receive Medicaid.

As part of the health law commonly known as Obamacare, the Medicaid program in Connecticut and many other states will expand Jan. 1 to cover more adults without minor children. In addition, exchanges like Access Health are selling private insurance plans that, for many people, are expected to come with discounted premiums, subsidized by the federal government.

A major reason for Connecticut’s unique balance of applicants, Wadleigh said, is that the state began expanding Medicaid in 2010, shortly after the health law passed. That means fewer people are becoming eligible for Medicaid in Connecticut than in other states.

Connecticut currently provides Medicaid coverage to adults without minor children earning up to 56 percent of the poverty level. As of Jan. 1, that level will rise to 138 percent. Officials expect that will add between 55,000 and 60,000 more people to the program. (For adults with minor children, the income limit for Medicaid is already higher, and that will remain largely unchanged.)

Wadleigh reported the state’s enrollment trends during a meeting Tuesday morning of the state’s Health Care Cabinet.

Of the private insurance customers so far, 27 percent have selected “gold” plans, which have the highest premiums but pay the highest share of members’ medical costs. The majority, 55 percent, have selected the midlevel “silver” plans, while 16 percent have chosen “bronze” plans, which have the cheapest premiums available to most customers but leave them with higher expenses if they seek medical care.

Two percent of the customers chose catastrophic plans, which are available to people under 30 and carry low premiums but high out-of-pocket costs for most medical care.

Wadleigh said that of the people signing up for coverage, 19 percent are between ages 18 and 34. He did not say whether that referred to people signing up for Medicaid and private insurance, or just private insurance. Figures released last month showed that most of the young enrollees were signing up for Medicaid.

Access Health also provides coverage options for small businesses, but that portion of the exchange’s activity has been smaller than expected, Wadleigh said.

People can sign up for private insurance through Access Health through March 31, but the deadline for getting coverage that begins Jan. 1 is Dec. 15. Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman asked whether there has been talk of extending the application deadline for getting coverage that takes effect Jan. 1. Wadleigh said there has been talk of doing that, including during a conference call with the White House last week, but said there's been nothing definitive.

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