Nearly a third of initial Access Health applicants are under 35, CEO says

Nearly a third of the initial applicants to Access Health CT, the state’s new health insurance marketplace, are under 35, CEO Kevin Counihan said Tuesday.

And of all the applicants, most have selected the so-called silver or gold plans, which have higher premiums and cover a larger share of medical costs than the lower-cost bronze plan options.

Counihan presented the information during a meeting of the state’s Health Care Cabinet Tuesday morning. His data was based on enrollment from Access Health's first day last Tuesday, through Sunday.

During that time, the exchange received 1,157 applications, Counihan said. The silver plans were the most popular, drawing 49 percent of the early subscribers, while 26 percent picked gold plans.

Twenty-one percent of customers have picked bronze plans, which have the lowest premiums available to most people and cover the lowest share of medical costs.

Another 4 percent will purchase catastrophic policies, which are available only to people under 30 and offer the least comprehensive coverage.

Patient advocates have said it’s important for customers to consider both the premiums and out-of-pocket costs required for each type of plan, rather than simply picking the plan with the lowest up-front costs.

One key question about the federal health reform law’s implementation is whether younger and healthier people will buy coverage, helping to balance the cost of insuring older and less healthy people.

“Obviously we’re all interested in making sure the risk pool is as balanced as it can be and this is a very good start to that,” Counihan said.

Whether the early application activity proves to be an indication of trends to come remains to be seen. Access Health is aiming to enroll 100,000 state residents in coverage, and Counihan and others expect heavier activity toward the end of November.

Access Health was created as part of the federal health reform law, and is selling health care coverage offered by private insurers. None of the coverage takes effect until Jan. 1. Many people who buy coverage through Access Health are expected to qualify for federal subsidies to discount their premiums. People who qualify for the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which takes effect Jan. 1, can also apply through Access Health.

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