New Census data show Conn.’s uninsured declining

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Data released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau show the number of uninsured residents in Connecticut continues to decline as the state is poised to begin open enrollment in its new health insurance marketplace next month.

The figures, based on 2012 numbers, estimate 284,000 of the state’s nearly 3.6 million residents were uninsured for the previous 12 months.

Kevin Counihan, chief executive officer of the health care marketplace or exchange, known as Access Health CT, said his office has been basing its outreach efforts on an estimated 344,000 uninsured. But he said he’s “always a little suspicious of these figures,” which can be fluid, and the exchange is proceeding with its same outreach efforts to encourage people to begin signing up for coverage.

“We’re being quite aggressive in our state about communication and outreach and marketing, and we’re going to take on as many people as we can get,” he said.

Open enrollment begins on Oct. 1, and insurance coverage begins on Jan. 1.

Counihan said Access Health CT has a target of enrolling about 100,000 people in the first year. That figure includes people buying new policies from private insurers participating in the exchange, people eligible for Medicaid under new guidelines, people currently covered who are switching to different plans and employees of small businesses that are expected to sign up for plans offered under the exchange.

Counihan said he hopes the exchange will be able to reduce the state’s number of uninsured by 25 percent in the first year.

A comparison of two-year averages of Census data, compiled by the public policy think tank Connecticut Voices for Children, shows the percentage of people under age 65 in Connecticut without health insurance coverage dropped from 12.7 percent, or 384,000 people, in 2009-10, to 9.5 percent, or 286,000, in 2011-12. The two-year averages are seen as a more accurate measurement of the state’s uninsured, given Connecticut’s small population.

Sharon Langer, a senior policy fellow at the think tank, partially credits the decline in the state’s uninsured to the 2010 expansion of Medicaid eligibility to more poor adults. Also, she said a 2009 state law enabling young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans and a 2007 law that expanded eligibility for the state’s HUSKY health insurance program for children to more parents and pregnant women contributed to the drop.

“We’re hoping that the exchange, in combination with the Medicaid expansion going forward, will bring more good news and the number of uninsured in our state will go down even more as we look at these numbers in the coming year,” she said, adding how it’s unrealistic to expect the uninsured rate to be eliminated.

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