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Somers wants Access Health CT enrollment extended

December 13, 2018

State Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, called Thursday for Access Health CT’s open-enrollment period to be extended beyond its scheduled end at midnight Saturday.

While the senator said she’s received numerous calls from constituents who’ve had trouble reaching the state health insurance exchange to sign up for 2019 coverage, an Access Health CT spokeswoman said the quasi-public agency was unaware of any issues. 

“I’ve been getting complaints that the internet is slow and that when people call, they’re on the phone for hours and still can’t get through,” Somers said. “When they leave a message, no one calls them back.”

Insurance brokers who assist customers have been experiencing delays, too, she said.

“The whole idea is to provide access to health care, so if the system’s overloaded, we should extend the enrollment period by a month,” Somers said.

“We have not been getting complaints,” said Kathleen Tallarita, Access Health CT’s manager of government affairs and communications.

She said callers and those who go on the agency’s website likely have been experiencing longer-than-usual wait times as the sign-up deadline nears but that no problems with the system have been reported.

Access Health CT has been operating seven enrollment centers around the state since the enrollment period began Nov. 1. One of the locations is at the Groton Senior Center, 102 Newtown Road, which will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday and closed Saturday. Enrollment fairs are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in Milford and Stamford.

Through a partnership with Lyft, the ride-sharing company, Lyft drivers are providing a 20 percent discount to Connecticut residents traveling to and from Access Health CT enrollment centers and fairs.

People will be able to enroll via phone and online right up until midnight Saturday, Tallarita said.

“We want people to continue to try to get through,” she said. “We are monitoring the situation and if we see that a large number of those with plans has not re-enrolled, we will consider extending the deadline. ... It might be Saturday or Sunday before we make a final determination.”

Agency officials first would have to ensure that the insurance carriers that participate in the exchange could accommodate an extension, Tallarita said.

As of last Friday, 95,325 people had enrolled in 2019 health plans through the exchange, which Tallarita said was on par with last year’s enrollment, when 114,134 enrolled during an open sign-up period that ended Dec. 22, 2017.

During the current enrollment period, nearly 211,000 people had visited the exchange’s website through Dec. 7, compared to 225,000 last year. Nearly 143,000 calls had been handled this year compared to 267,000 last year.

Nationally, new sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act are down 20 percent, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported this week.