The Access Health CT storefront in New Britain shortly after 10 a.m. Most of those in the waiting area were exchange staff.
The Access Health CT storefront in New Britain. (File photo) Arielle Levin Becker /

About 8,000 people who signed up for coverage through the Connecticut’s health insurance exchange missed the deadline for their first payment and lost coverage, exchange CEO Jim Wadleigh said Monday.

“This number is bigger than we were anticipating,” Wadleigh said. Just over 116,000 people signed up for private insurance through Access Health CT, the state’s exchange, during the open enrollment period that ended Jan. 31. “The fact that all these customers have not made their first payment was kind of a shock to even us.”

People generally must make their first payment within 30 days of getting the bill.

Wadleigh said it’s possible that a similar number of people failed to make their first payment last year, but the exchange didn’t have the data to know.

The consequences could be steeper this year: While the exchange last year allowed people to sign up for coverage outside the open enrollment period without checking whether they had a reason that would have qualified them to do so, Access Health is following tighter rules for off-season signups this year. That means that people who didn’t pay their first bill won’t be eligible to sign up again, unless they go through a change in circumstances that affects their coverage, such as getting divorced or losing a job.

Still, Wadleigh said some people could potentially gain coverage if they didn’t pay because of problems with their bill, such as if it didn’t include financial assistance they were entitled to receive, or if they didn’t receive a bill.

Separately, about 17,000 customers must still verify information reported on their applications to maintain their coverage or federal financial assistance. Customers have 90 days to provide information on their income, citizenship or other qualifications in cases in which the information they reported did not match information available through federal sources. It’s not clear how much overlap there is between the approximately 8,000 who didn’t make their first payment and the 17,000 who haven’t yet verified needed information.

Because the deadline for signing up for coverage was Jan. 31, some customers are still within the window to pay their first bill.

“We’re trying to quickly course-correct and make sure everybody understands that there’s a little bit more to do to finish the enrollment,” Wadleigh said.

While people have 30 days to make their first payment, those who do get a longer grace period – 90 days – to make subsequent monthly payments before their coverage can be cut off.

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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