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Connecticut Continues Unique Path Toward Health Reform

by Christine Stuart | Nov 7, 2013 4:00pm
(8) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Congress, Health Care, White House, New Britain

Christine Stuart photo

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan

Connecticut officials were excited about opening the nation’s first health exchange storefront where customers can sign up for a health plan. But that excitement was somewhat tempered Thursday by fear that the White House would punish state for bragging about its enrollment success.

The federal government’s Healthcare.gov website, which directly services 36 states, has been plagued with problems since it opened on Oct. 1. Contractors hired to create the website have been working to fix the problems, but all the kinks aren’t expected to be worked out until the end of November.

The story in Connecticut, which decided to operate its own exchange, is different. The site hasn’t crashed or slowed for any significant amount of time. And in this state more people are signing up for one of the three private insurance carriers than for government-funded Medicaid.

“We are best in the nation” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday. “Our numbers are just fantastic.”

According to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who co-chairs the Access Health CT board of directors, nearly 9,500 individuals have enrolled for plans through the exchange.

Officials initially declined to break down the number enrolled in private insurance plans and those in Medicaid because they said they made a deal with the White House only to report enrollment every two weeks.

“We have carefully worked out an arrangement with the White House about reporting,” Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan said. “We just have to make sure we stick with our deal.”

When they relented, the total number of individuals enrolled was 9,498. Of those 5,312 were in private insurance plans and 4,186 were enrolled in Medicaid.

Numbers released last week show that during its first month of enrollment, 7,615 people signed up and of those, 4,065 signed up for plans with one of the three private insurance carriers and 3,550 were enrolled in Medicaid.

That means that about 1,883 people have signed up in the past week.

“It is remarkable what’s being accomplished in Connecticut when you think about all the bad news that’s being told by TV stations and radio stations and newspapers mixing the difference between the state rollout and the federal rollout. This is an amazing success that we’re having here in the state of Connecticut,” Malloy said.

But the problems with the federal Healthcare.gov website, which has generated Congressional hearings and dominated the national news cycle, is causing some confusion among Connecticut consumers who don’t know the difference between the two exchanges.

“People are confused by national TV,” compared to “what’s happening here in the state,” Malloy said.

Christine Stuart photo “As great as our numbers are I think [the national rollout] is hurting our numbers,” he said. “I think there are a whole bunch of people in Connecticut waiting for Dec. 1 . . . There’s no reason to wait.”

Malloy’s remarks come a day after 16 U.S. Democratic Senators met with President Barack Obama and White House officials to express their concern with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“You had a bunch of states play a game of sabotage,” Malloy said. “Every state that opened up its own efforts is way beyond where the federal government is.”

Connecticut is one of 14 states that opened up its own exchange.

Malloy said he follows the discussion on the federal level but he has a smile on his face while he does it “because I know we got it right.”

But Connecticut’s site is still somewhat dependent on the federal data hub to verify the identity and income of those enrolling. That federal hub has been down on and off for more than a week and thus has prevented some customers in Connecticut from finishing the enrollment process.

As a result, officials at Access Health CT have been talking to companies to see if they can weave in a backup identity and income verification system so that it doesn’t have to depend completely on the federal hub for the information.

The new system would not circumvent the hub, but it would create redundancy so that if the federal hub goes down, Connecticut residents would still be able to complete the enrollment process.

“We’re trying to be as self-sufficient as we can,” Counihan said. “It’s not at all a criticism of the hub. It’s more to say the more that we can control within our state, the more nimble we can be.”

James Wadleigh, Access Health CT’s chief information officer, said they are currently going over proposals for the identity proofing process if the federal hub goes down. However, they aren’t going to be doing a formal bid process for the project. Wadleigh said they will be asking a few companies to submit proposals. The process is similar to the one used to contract Global Strategies Group, the public affairs company hired in June for more than $20,000 a month to assist in public relations and crisis communication.

Connecticut’s exchange, Access Health CT, is funded by the federal government to the tune of $118.7 million. It is set up as a quasi-public state agency, which has focused most of its attention on contracting with vendors to create the website, operate a storefront, and enroll customers.

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(8) Comments

posted by: LongJohn47 | November 8, 2013  5:26pm

Congratulations to Kevin Counihan, the staff at AccessHealthCT, and to Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and her Board of Directors for successfully launching the insurance exchange in CT. 

They’ve all worked hard on an extremely complicated project for more than a year and we should be proud of their accomplishment.

posted by: lkulmann | November 8, 2013  8:47pm

This is exciting and refreshing. Watching the State government officials enjoy the idea of all its residents having health insurance. A great success from a technical standpoint. Unfortunately, once again, the needs of the disabled population not addressed and absolutely no sign of the patient-centered care model that is the main theme of the ACA. May as well flush The Social Security Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Federal Health Care Insurance aka Medicaid program down the toilet. There are several Medicaid waiver programs that would bring CT’s compliance up to speed if implemented properly. There is hope. The Home and Community based waiver 1915k was developed along side of the ACA for people that want to live home v. institution. If they need community supports such as caregivers, home health aides, RESPITE, and so on it can be done with this waiver. I believe there is additional fed $$ incentive to provide this type of program. I think 6%... With the nursing home quality of care and The CT DPH latest audit results etc,,, be scared. Be very scared. I am.

posted by: LongJohn47 | November 8, 2013  11:13pm

Ikulmann—I don’t know the issues around health care for the disabled, so don’t know how worried that population is or what changes need to be made to better serve them. 

I do think that flushing social security etc down the toilet is a bit overboard, given that the majority of these program recipients are not disabled and are reasonably well-served.  Nursing home care is clearly an issue, and hopefully it’s being addressed (though again this is not an area where I have much competence).

Obamacare is far from perfect, but it’s a great first step and it’s being well-managed in CT.  Bravo again to all concerned.  We have a lot to be proud of.

posted by: StevenRosenbaum | November 10, 2013  5:56am

What is the demographic breakdown of the “nearly” 9,500 who have enrolled? Are they the young and healthy that the success of Obamacare relies upon? Perhaps an interesting note would be a sidebar on those who have lost their health insurance due to Obamacre. Oh wait…. we are only going to get a story which parrot’s the government’s story line. My bad.

posted by: lkulmann | November 10, 2013  8:00am

@longjohn47…thank you for your kind words. The SS Act is being implemented very well for the elderly and seniors. I am so thankful for that. They have a very vocal advocate organization to oversee the program~~ AARP. The SS Act was also established to protect the severely disabled and disadvantaged. The State of CT gets reimbursed to provide for this population. That’s the problem. The federal regulations surrounding the use of this funding is very specific but mishandled and diverted to other areas of government interests. Bottom line is we are being intentionally neglected by CT because we are a nonproductive burden in the eyes of our ‘cold beaurocrats’ in State government and they don’t want to invest in this population. I can understand the concept but then the ethical thing to do is to stop collecting the federal funds earmarked for services for the disabled. Unfortunately that money is happily received with open arms, lovingly accounted for on paper then gently tossed in the general fund and used for other State projects… and so that is my issue with the safety net entitlement programs via the CT Access Healthcare program. This population is being exploited and neglected and I’m mad as hell about it. The CT Developemental Disabilities Agency gets 1 billion/year to provide services. That’s what I want LongJohn47 ... that money needs to be used by the DDS community. Currently the only assistance we are ‘entitled’ to in writing is placement of my son when I die~ I’ll be changing my son’s diapers till I die. They don’t even pay for the diapers. Can you help LJ?

posted by: Christine Stuart | November 10, 2013  1:36pm

Christine Stuart

Well Steven as soon as I can get that information I will share it. The administration has some sort of deal where they are now allowing the White House to control Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws. That’s not going to stand. Cause I won’t allow it. So say what you will, I’m not giving up.

posted by: art vandelay | November 12, 2013  1:21pm

art vandelay

To LongJohn47,
If you truly believe that nationalized health care is the greatest thing since sliced bread,
Why wasn’t Malloy & his family,Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, Dick Blumenthal, Chris Murphy, and Barack Hussain Obama leading the way. If Nationalized Health Care is the answer, why weren’t they the first to sign up on TV?  I think I know the answer.

posted by: LongJohn47 | November 13, 2013  10:44am

Art, all the elected officials you mention have employer-provided healthcare (like most Americans).  Therefore, they can’t sign up on the exchange.

Now you know the answer.