Three weeks into open enrollment, the state’s insurance exchange has signed up about 20,000 people for 2020 health plans, roughly the same amount as this time last year, the group said Thursday.

Another 77,000 who currently are enrolled have yet to be renewed. Of those, 67,500 are scheduled for automatic renewal by the end of next week and another 10,000 will have to do it manually, leaders at Access Health said. Reminders will be issued in the coming days. The open enrollment period runs through Dec. 15.

Last fall, a total of about 111,000 people signed up for 2019 health plans though the exchange and officials are expecting the same number this year.

Access Health workers are trying new approaches to reach the nearly 187,000 Connecticut residents who are still uninsured.

Using tools that analyze census tracts, exchange workers identified neighborhoods within cities where a majority of the uninsured people live. Last month, they began canvassing homes in those areas – knocking on doors to chat with people about the range of health plans, state subsidies and other available services. Thousands of homes in Hartford, Bridgeport, Norwalk and Fairfield are expected to be visited.

Kathleen Tallarita, a spokeswomen for Access Health, said it’s too soon to determine whether the effort has inspired more uninsured people to seek coverage. The exchange typically sees a surge in enrollment after Thanksgiving, she said.

“I don’t think at this point we can have a good grasp on whether those efforts are bringing in the new people we’re reaching,” she said. “It’s still early. We’ll be able to better gauge whether those efforts are bringing in the uninsured closer to the end of the enrollment period.”

Officials have also expanded the number of enrollment fairs this year. More than 1,400 people have attended the events so far, the group said, and more than 70% of those who show up sign up for health coverage.

“We’ve placed a great emphasis on ensuring we’ve got an in-person presence for our consumers,” said Robert Blundo, Access Health’s director of technical operations and analytics.

People who receive federal subsidies – about half of those on the exchange – will see a decrease in their premiums next year.

Consumers who are ineligible for subsidies and are enrolled in gold-level plans will see an average increase of $116 in their monthly premiums. Those enrolled in silver-level plans will face an average hike of $66 per month, and those with bronze policies will see an average $59 monthly increase.

Access Health has seen a 7% decrease in its call volume so far this year. The group’s leaders attributed the drop to “fewer system issues,” meaning not as many people have needed to call for assistance.

At the exchange’s board meeting Thursday, members voted to spend up to $100,000 next year to study  the creation of a reinsurance program in Connecticut.

A proposal to apply for a federal waiver and launch a reinsurance program was part of an unsuccessful public option bill last spring, though the reinsurance portion appears to have bipartisan support heading into the 2020 legislative session.

The program helps defray high cost claims that may be incurred by insurance companies. Reinsurance works by guaranteeing to carriers that if their costs of paying for a claim exceed a certain amount, they will receive assistance in paying for that claim.

It’s not yet clear what state department would run the program if legislation passes next year.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.

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