James Michel, the head of Access Health CT, has said he is concerned about the segment of Connecticut's population that remains uninsured. Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent
Access Health CT CEO James Michel speaks at Project Access in New Haven on Friday. Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent

New Haven — With just over two weeks left in open enrollment, Access Health CT CEO James Michel said Friday the health insurance exchange has already seen a roughly 2 to 3 percent higher turnout of customers than it had at this point last year.

This year’s open enrollment period is about one week shorter, and runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15. As of this week, Michel said, about 101,000 were enrolled.

Michel, who joined U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and state Rep. Patricia Dillion, for a tour of Project Access in New Haven, said customers are relying more on the health insurance exchange’s site than before.

“So we have less calls to our call center, which is a good indicator that our system is functioning more efficiently and is easier to navigate through,” Michel said.

Project Access, which coordinates free specialty care mainly for uninsured patients and helps locals navigate health care options during open enrollment, has already enrolled 25 families during this year’s open enrollment. Program Coordinator Damaris Velez said the organization helped 45 families enroll last year.

Access Heath CT CEO James Michel and Project Access Executive Director Darcey Cobbs-Lomax on Friday Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent

Project Access Executive Director Darcey Cobbs-Lomax said 84 percent of the organization’s patients are uninsured. Cobbs-Lomax said the largest referral numbers involve the women’s center at Yale New Haven Hospital, and orthopedic and dermatology needs.

During their visit Friday, state officials zigzagged through different halls and rooms to talk to patients and staff members about the organization and the open enrollment season.

Billy Nunes, a 33-year-old from West Haven, came to Project Health as a walk-in with his father on Friday to enroll in Access Health. Nunes said he came to the organization because he was running out of time and needed health insurance after losing his 15-year job at a local property management company.

From left, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy speak to staff at Project Access on Friday Thomas Breen / New Haven Independent

Murphy praised Access Health and local enrollment centers for helping Connecticut get ahead of schedule on enrollment this year.

“Nationally 13 percent less people have signed up this year than signed up at the same point last year, so once again Connecticut is outpacing the nation by far in implementing the Affordable Care Act,” Murphy said.

Michel said Access Health is also utilizing a number of enrollment centers in key cities across the state, where people can walk in to sign up.

Access Health officials have scheduled five upcoming weekend enrollment fairs in Bridgeport, Waterbury, Hartford, Milford, and Stamford.

Clarice Silber was a General Assignment Reporter at CT Mirror. She formerly worked for The Associated Press in Phoenix as a legislative and general assignment reporter. In 2016, she conducted extensive interviews and research in Portuguese and Spanish for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at McClatchy, which was the only U.S. newspaper to gain initial access to the Panama Papers. She is a Rio de Janeiro native and graduated from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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