This is a photo of Pedro Lopez asking how long it will take to sign up for insurance at the Access Health CT store in New Britain.
Access Health CT has added a special enrollment period to help uninsured people get access to coverage. Arielle Levin Becker / The CT Mirror file photo
This is a picture of Staff at the Access Health CT enrollment center in New Britain
Staff at the Access Health CT enrollment center in New Britain. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31. Arielle Levin Becker /

More than 5,400 new customers have bought private insurance through the state’s health insurance exchange since Nov. 1, a group that includes a larger share of young adults and people who qualify for subsidized coverage than the current customer base.

Overall, exchange officials say 99,127 people are signed up for private insurance plans for 2016. That figure includes many current customers – as many as 60,525 households, some of which include more than one person – who are slated to be automatically renewed into their current plans in December. It’s not clear how many people actively selected plans.

The open enrollment period for individual-market insurance coverage began Nov. 1 and runs through Jan. 31. Officials at the exchange, Access Health CT, say their target is 105,000 to 115,000 customers in 2016 for the private insurance plans sold through the marketplace. Just over 110,000 people signed up for private plans through Access Health during the 2015 open enrollment period, although the number of enrollees has since dropped to about 95,500.

Who are the new customers and what plans are they picking?

Based on an Access Health analysis of the new customers – defined as those who have signed up since Nov. 1 and who were not enrolled in an Access Health plan or Medicaid as of Oct. 31 – the new group skews younger than the existing membership.

Among those deemed “new,” just under 12 percent are aged 18 to 25, compared to 9 percent of existing customers, and 19 percent are aged 26 to 34, up from just under 15 percent of current members. Older people represent a smaller share of the new customers – 23 percent, compared to 31 percent of current customers.

It’s not clear whether those who signed up in the first weeks of open-enrollment will be representative of the full group that will sign up during the three-month sign-up period.

A larger share of the new customers qualify for federally subsidized premiums and cost-sharing compared to existing customers, although exchange officials expect that might decrease over time. Among the new group, nearly two-thirds qualify for plans that come with both federally subsidized premiums and out-of-pocket costs when getting care, which are only available to people whose income is below 250 percent of the poverty level. Just under half of current members qualify for those plans.

Robert Blundo, director of technical operations and analytics at the exchange, said an increased rate of new customers qualifying for both types of subsidized plans is expected, and likely to drop, because the initial eligibility determination is based on information people provide about their income. Typically, the income verification process determines that some people have higher incomes than they initially reported, leading them to qualify for lower levels of subsidies, or none.

So far, nearly two-thirds of new customers have signed up for plans offered by ConnectiCare Benefits Inc., which is already the largest carrier on the exchange. Sixty-two percent of new members picked ConnectiCare plans, while 23.7 percent picked Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, 11.5 percent picked HealthyCT and 2.7 percent picked UnitedHealthcare.

Currently, 43 percent of Access Health customers are covered by ConnectiCare, while 37 percent have Anthem, 17 percent are covered by HealthyCT and 2.5 percent are in UnitedHealthcare plans.

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Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She 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 caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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