Hartford Hospital, whose various exempt parcels in the city are assessed at approximately $481 million. Hartford Business Journal
Residents in certain income brackets now qualify for free health coverage through Connecticut’s insurance exchange. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org
Residents in certain income brackets now qualify for free health coverage through Connecticut’s insurance exchange. Cloe Poisson / CTMirror.org

The state is devoting $8 million this year and $15.6 million next year to an initiative it is calling the Covered Connecticut program, which is expected to provide free health coverage for up to 40,000 people.

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers were aiming to improve health care access by expanding the state’s Medicaid program, known as HUSKY, by adjusting the qualifying threshold so more people could enroll in coverage. Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration floated an alternative: Use state funds to boost subsidies on the exchange that could make health plans free for people who meet certain guidelines. Lamont’s plan was ultimately successful, and the state expects a 50% federal reimbursement in the second year.

Qualifying residents can sign up for coverage through the health insurance exchange, Access Health CT.

“In our work, we discovered that we could offer many more people coverage for the same or similar cost as to what was being proposed in the state budget to cover a group of 8,000 people through Medicaid,” said Vicki Veltri, executive director of the state’s Office of Health Strategy. “We can cover 40,000 people for almost the same cost. And we want to fortify the marketplace. This helps exchange, it helps provide ongoing coverage to people for free, but most importantly, it helps people get covered. We’re taking away any disincentive to getting covered.”

Here are some key things to know about the Covered Connecticut program:

Residents earning more than 160% of the federal poverty level, but not greater than 175%, and have a dependent child under age 19 now qualify for free coverage. Hartford Business Journal

Who qualifies?

During the first year of the program, households earning more than 160% of the federal poverty level, but not greater than 175%, qualify for free coverage. A family of one at 160% of the FPL earns $20,426 annually, while a family of four earns $41,920. At 175% of the FPL, a family of one earns $22,310, while a family of four earns $45,850.

The household must also have at least one dependent child under age 19 to qualify. A child who is age 18 must be a full-time student.

As many as 8,000 people will be eligible for the free health plans in the first year, state officials said.

During the program’s second year, the coverage will be expanded to households earning over 138% of the federal poverty level, but not greater than 175%. Up to 32,000 more people are expected to qualify in the second year.

What type of coverage will I get?

Eligible households will be enrolled in a silver plan on the exchange. Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Benefits Inc. offer individual plans through Access Health CT. The policies give consumers access to preventative care, coverage for prescription drugs, pregnancy care, and coverage for behavioral and mental health care, among other benefits.

Will I have to pay anything?

No. The Covered Connecticut program funds the cost of all premiums, deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance and out-of-pocket costs for qualifying residents, making the coverage free.

When can I enroll?

A special enrollment period is underway right now. It runs through Aug. 15. Residents can also sign up any time if they have a qualifying life event, such as losing health coverage, getting married or having a baby.

Some people already enrolled in plans through the exchange may qualify for the free coverage. Access Health CT has begun reaching out to these residents.

When will my coverage begin and end?

Coverage will begin Aug. 1 for residents who sign up in July. Coverage will begin Sept. 1 for residents who sign up in August.

The health plans run through Dec. 31, but enrollment will open again in November. Residents can re-enroll for coverage that begins in January 2022 or may be automatically re-enrolled.

How do I sign up?

Residents can sign up for coverage on AccessHealthCT.com or by calling 855-805-4325.

Access Health is also holding in-person appointments at its enrollment centers; appointments are required.

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.