Connecticut's uninsured rate drops from 7.9 percent to 4 percent; exchange credited

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — Connecticut's rate of uninsured people has dropped significantly since 2012, from 7.9 percent to 4 percent, with about 147,000 people still without coverage, according to data released Wednesday by the state's health insurance marketplace.

State officials credited the marketplace, Access Health CT, with much of the reduction. According to Access Health CT's research, of the 256,666 residents who signed up for health insurance though the marketplace, or exchange, during this year's open enrollment period, 138,834, or about 53 percent, were uninsured at the time.

Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan acknowledged he had predicted the state's uninsured rate would drop to about 6.5 percent due to President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

"I've got to be frank with you. We had an office pool going on about what this percentage was going to look like," Counihan said. "No one expected we'd be down to 4 percent."

Access Health CT recently contacted more than 2,500 people who enrolled either in private insurance coverage or in Medicaid through the marketplace. Additional data from that survey, such as the racial makeup of new enrollees, is expected in a couple of weeks.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who is seeking re-election, appeared pleased by the new figures, saying they were proof of Connecticut's success with providing health insurance coverage to people who didn't have it. Malloy said the state's average Medicaid costs also have decreased.

Malloy, when asked how he would feel if Obama's health care law became an issue in this year's race for governor, said, "I'm more than happy to run on that issue,"

Open enrollment begins again on Nov. 15. In the meantime, residents are only allowed to shop now for coverage under special circumstances, such as loss of employer coverage, marriage, divorce, birth or adoption.

Counihan said the marketplace's top goal is to retain the current enrollees. He said Access Health CT is planning an outreach effort, beginning after Labor Day, to help residents with their policy renewals.

So far, most new enrollees are keeping up with paying their insurance premiums. Counihan said compliance is at about 90 percent.

Counihan said Access Health CT still hopes to sign up more uninsured residents, possibly reducing the state's rate to about 2 percent or 3 percent. He said there will always be people who do not want to sign up for coverage.

"Are we going stop at 4 percent? Absolutely not," he said. "But we have made significant, significant stride to meet our mission and our goal, and we just couldn't be happier about it."

Access Health CT relied on figures from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which estimated there were about 286,000 uninsured residents in Connecticut in 2012. Other estimates have placed the figure higher, at about 337,000.

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