The Access Community Action Agency will lead a regional effort to enroll uninsured Windham and Tolland County individuals and families in affordable health coverage beginning October 1. In CT there are over 285,000 uninsured adults, with 23,745 of them in Windham and Tolland Counties.
The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) established, new competitive marketplaces called Health Insurance Exchanges to give consumers more control, quality choices and better protection when buying insurance. Access, in partnership with Access Health CT, will serve as a regional Navigator, the name given to organizations that coordinate the outreach and education process designed to help people comply with the new ACA requirement that all individuals have health insurance coverage. And while coverage is required, the ACA provides enrolling families and individuals with help to pay their premiums based on their income. The lower the income, the more help called subsidies will be provided. The Navigator’s role is to ensure that all eligible individuals and families both receive the information necessary to determine which health insurance option best fits their needs, and then enroll in their plan of choice.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently awarded $54 million in grants nationally to hire Navigators to prepare for the initial enrollment period from October 1, 2013 – March 31, 2014. According to the Affordable Care Act (Public Law 111-148), Navigators will “play an important role in facilitating a consumer’s enrollment in a Quality Health Plan by providing fair, impartial, and accurate information that assists consumers with submitting the eligibility application, clarifying the distinctions among QHPs, and helping qualified individuals make informed decisions during the health plan selection process.” Access will also serve as an “Assister”, a local agency that will work one-on-one to engage, educate and enroll people in health insurance, primarily during the initial enrollment period.
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the combination of new subsidies for health insurance and consumer protections will enable 14 million uninsured people to gain coverage in 2014, and 27 million by 2021. According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, about 46 percent of adults aged 19 to 64, about 84 million Americans, did not have health insurance or lacked adequate health insurance coverage during 2012. Two in five people (41%), about 75 million, reported having difficulty paying for their medical bills.
HHS plans to have health insurance exchanges up and running in every state by the end of the year. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, as of April 23rd, 17 states including Connecticut, and the District of Columbia were conditionally approved to create their own SBE (State-based Exchange). Seven states were conditionally approved to establish partnership exchanges. Twenty-six states declined to operate an SBE and will default to a Federally-facilitated Exchange (FFF).
The Access Community Action Agency is the federal and state designated anti-poverty agency for Windham and Tolland Counties. Access provides food, emergency shelter, energy assistance, energy conservation services, job and life skills training, youth mentoring, group homes, senior housing and more for low-income families and individuals. For more information about Access’ services, call (860) 450-7400 in the Willimantic area, (860) 412-1600 in the Danielson area, or visit www.accessagency.org.