By Lisa Capobianco
With the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” come changes to Connecticut’s health insurance system, starting October 1.
Connecticut has a new health insurance marketplace, or exchange, called, “Access Health CT,” which provides health care coverage options for individuals, families and small employers. Access Health CT is the only marketplace in the state “where individuals and smalls businesses can seek help with their health insurance costs,” according to a press release from the Connecticut General Assembly, House of Democrats. All residents in Connecticut, despite any pre-existing conditions, can have access to health coverage.
“Accesshealthct.com is going to be a place where people can go online, answer all their personal information…and then the exchange will allow them to comparison shop among the private insurance companies that sell insurance through the exchange,” said broker Michael Leone of Associated Insurance Benefits, LLC during a recent ACA workshop presented by the Southington Chamber of Commerce.
Although the state encourages residents to apply for coverage through the insurance exchange, Leone said they can still obtain health coverage through the insurance companies directly.
“These companies can sell through the exchange and/or they can sell outside of the exchange,” Leone said. “You can go to these companies directly and buy a silver level plan without going through this exchange.”
Connecticut will undergo changes because the ACA requires all states to have a marketplace by January 1, 2014. Here is a basic summary of how the Affordable Care Act will affect the state, according to Associate Insurance Benefits, LLC.
By January 1, 2014, all Americans must have health insurance. If they do not have health insurance by this date, they must pay a penalty of 1 percent of their income, and this penalty will rise to 2.5 percent in 2015.
Private insurance companies will sell insurance products through Access Health CT, and will offer enrollments online at http://www.accesshealthct.com.
The enrollment period for health coverage starts October 1 and will end March 31, 2014. Coverage is effective January 1.
State residents can choose from semi-standardized plans including Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans.
Employers who have less than 50 employees may stop offering health insurance as a benefit when they determine the rate savings in individual plans. Employers who have less than 50 full-time equivalent employees will not pay a penalty. Large employers will not pay a penalty until 2015.
The state has approved individual exchange rates for 2014. These new rates are 30 percent less than the 2014 group plans with similar benefits. They are about 50 percent lower than the current 2013 group rates for three to nine employees.
Residents with a household income below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level qualify for a premium subsidy tax credit, which is only available when people purchase coverage through the exchange. This means that the cost of health insurance will not exceed 9.5 percent of their household income.
Anyone who has questions or wants more information about health coverage under the ACA can contact the toll-free call center of Access Health CT at 1-855-805-HEALTH (4325) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
“Access Health CT is working hard to provide consumers with all the information they need to make these important choices about their health coverage,” said CEO Kevin Counihan, in a press release. “The call center will make it possible for Connecticut residents and small businesses to learn about their coverage options and find out if they are eligible for financial help under the ACA.”