Starting today, health insurance open enrollment begins in Connecticut. That means people across our state and around our country can choose a health care plan that works for them and their families. This includes signing up through Access Health CT—our state-run online insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This six-week period allows anyone without employer sponsored coverage or not enrolled in Medicare to sign up for a health insurance plan or make changes to their current coverage. If you’re already on a plan and don’t sign up during this period, don’t worry — you’ll be renewed on your existing plan. But it doesn’t hurt to shop around.
The ACA today covers 100,000 Connecticut residents with private health insurance and over 250,000 Connecticut residents with Medicaid. These plans cover a set of essential health benefits, from prescription drugs, emergency room visits, mental health and substance abuse services, and maternity care. And thanks to this law, you cannot be denied coverage when you apply during the open enrollment period.
Here are three things to watch out for when picking your insurance plan during open enrollment:
- Pre-Existing Conditions: If you have a serious medical condition or any pre-existing condition, you can’t be charged more. If you are signing up for a plan through Access Health CT, you are guaranteed coverage for any pre-existing conditions. This means the nearly 520,000 Connecticut residents with pre-existing conditions like diabetes, mental disorders, HIV/AIDS, or heart disease, and other health conditions can’t be discriminated against.
- Choice: Even if you like your current plan, it’s a good idea to shop around. There are three tiers of coverage that vary in the amount of deductibles and copayments consumers have to pay, so compare the gold, silver, and bronze tiers to see which plan is better for you and your family. And compare the different plan options to see if they include any specific medications you take and preferred doctors, clinics, or hospitals, and consider what level of flexibility you want for in-network versus out-of-network access.
- Discounted rates: Many individuals and families will qualify for tax credits that can dramatically bring down the monthly cost of health insurance premiums. That’s why it’s a great idea to go through the process, even if you aren’t sure you can afford insurance. The application process will tell you if you qualify for discounted rates. At the start of the year, more than 114,000 Connecticut residents received discounted premiums with the average credit worth $513 a month. This amounted to $457 million last year in savings for people in the state.
The savings Connecticut residents are getting from the ACA are a game changer. And so it’s hard to understand why President Trump and Republicans in Congress keep trying to eliminate the law or gut protections for American health consumers. I don’t know why Republicans still deny the success of the ACA – when the law went into effect, the uninsured rate dropped to nearly 10 percent (down from 18 percent before the ACA). In Connecticut, 300,000 people get their insurance through the ACA. That’s a huge number, and if Republicans are successful in getting rid of the law our state’s health care system will go into meltdown.
The ACA didn’t solve all the problems in our health care system, and we should be constantly working to improve health care by making insurance more affordable for all Americans across this country and attacking the high costs of health care services. I’m going to continue to fight to ensure we preserve the protections in the ACA and expand quality, affordable coverage for more Americans. Connecticut residents should take advantage of the open enrollment period and then together, we need to fight back attempts to undermine or destroy the ACA and keep working on efforts to cut overall costs for consumers.
Chris Murphy is a U.S. Senator from Connecticut.