This is a picture of Access Health's New Britain store
Access Health's New Britain store Arielle Levin Becker / CTMirror file photo

Connecticut’s health insurance exchange reported Friday that 104,495 people have signed up for private insurance coverage that began Jan. 1.

That figure represents customers who met the first coverage deadline for Obamacare plans, Dec. 15. The open enrollment period for individual-market health plans runs through Jan. 31. People who sign up by Jan. 15 will receive coverage starting Feb. 1, while those who sign up after that will start their coverage March 1.

Last year, 116,019 people signed up for coverage through the exchange, Access Health CT, during the full open-enrollment period. The number of people covered generally drops in the months after open enrollment. Last year, for example, 99,038 people were covered as of October. Some people sign up but never pay their first premiums, while others drop out later. Some people move, get jobs or qualify for other coverage, such as Medicare or Medicaid.

People can sign up for coverage outside the three-month open enrollment period if they meet certain criteria, such as moving into Connecticut or losing coverage because they lost their job or got divorced. Last year, an average of nearly 3,000 new customers signed up each month. The exchange did not initially verify that people had a qualifying reason for signing up midyear, but began a verification process in June. Some insurance company leaders raised concerns in the past that people were signing up when they needed insurance and dropping coverage after that, driving up insurance costs.

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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