James Michel, CEO of Access Health CT Mackenzie Rigg / CTMirror.org

Officials from Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, are urging customers — especially those who qualify to be automatically re-enrolled in 2019 — to explore their options for next year using a new online tool and other resources available through the exchange.

Exchange officials always urge their customers to shop around to see which health insurance plan best fits their needs — to look at premium costs, but also other costs, like out-of-pocket maximums and deductibles — during the annual open enrollment period.

But for the open enrollment period that begins on Nov. 1., they say it’s even more critical.

That’s because pricing will change for existing plans and new plans will be offered for the first time. While some customers may see savings in their current plans in 2019, exchange officials said, others will not.

Other life changes such as a change in the size of a family, where people live, and changes to income, might also change the monthly cost of a plan.

“We want people to know that they have options, and some plans may be a better fit for different needs and budgets,” said James Michel, CEO of Access Health CT. “This year, more than ever, it pays to shop and compare – you may find cost savings or lower monthly payments with a different plan.”

Historically, about 80 to 90 percent of enrolled customers qualify for automatic renewal — and about two of thirds of them typically let their plans renew.

“Even if you are automatically enrolled for a 2019 plan, you can still make changes during open enrollment,” said Andrea Ravitz, the exchange’s director of marketing.

Access Health CT’s new “compare plans” tool will allow residents to see what 2019 plans they qualify for. The tool, which will be available on Monday, asks for certain demographic information and poses questions about doctors, prescriptions drugs and medical use. Until Monday, if someone uses the tool, it will generate plan comparisons for the 2018 coverage period, which ends on Dec. 31.

However, customers will not be able to sign-up for coverage until Nov. 1 — the first day of open enrollment.

This is the exchange’s sixth open enrollment, which runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. During last year’s open enrollment, 114,134 people signed up for coverage. Currently, about 100,000 residents are enrolled in plans.

Annual renewal notice Access Health CT

Next week, exchange customers will receive their annual renewal notices, which will arrive in yellow envelopes in their mailboxes. The notices will inform customers whether they are eligible for automatic renewal. If they are not eligible, they have to enroll in a plan during open enrollment to have coverage in 2019.

Certified brokers are also available free-of-charge to help residents figure out which plans to enroll in next year. The brokers are available through the call center and across the state for meetings in-person.

Mackenzie is a former health reporter at CT Mirror. Prior to her time at CT Mirror, she covered health care, social services and immigration for the News-Times in Danbury and has more than a decade of reporting experience. She traveled to Uganda for the News-Times to report an award-winning five-part series about a Connecticut doctor's experience in Africa. A native of upstate New York, she started her journalism career at The Recorder in Greenfield, Mass., and worked at Newsday on Long Island for three years. She is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she wrote her master's thesis about illegal detentions in Haiti's women's prison.

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