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Connecticut, like other states, launched an online health exchange -- Access Health CT -- where residents can shop for and purchase health insurance. There could be new opportunities for the unemployed or uninsured to receive health insurance. Here, we gather our coverage of changes under the new federal law.

Door-To-Door Canvassing, Enrollment Fairs Aim To Boost Health Insurance Coverage

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Nicole Leonard
/
Connecticut Public Radio
An enrollment specialist helps a resident with health insurance at an Access Health Connecticut enrollment fair in Hartford, Thurs., Nov. 21, 2019.

Deborah Bigelow walked into the Lyceum Conference Center in Hartford on a recent Thursday night prepared with a stack of folders and documents.

She hoped that by the time she left the Access Health Connecticut enrollment fair after speaking with a specialist, her health insurance plan for 2020 would be set, because not having coverage wasn’t an option.

“It can be frustrating and it can cause you to just throw your hands up in the air and say, ‘I’m not going to do it,’” she said. “But then the ripple effect of that is, you know, if you get sick and you got to pay for it out of pocket, what is that going to cost you and how is that going to affect your life?”

Bigelow, 64, is among more than 20,000 people in Connecticut who have purchased insurance policies so far through Access Health Connecticut during the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, which ends Dec. 15.

Officials estimate that 67,000 more people will automatically renew their coverage, but the goal this year is to get even more people insured, especially residents in underserved communities who may face significant challenges to health care coverage.

About 5.3% of the state’s population remains uninsured, or about 187,000 people, according to U.S. census data.

Andrea Ravitz, director of communications and marketing, said Access Health is growing its face-to-face interactions with communities through more enrollment fairs, enrollment navigators and a new door-to-door canvassing program.

“With the use of census data and the American Community Survey, we’re able to dig a little deeper as to some of the characteristics -- from the age perspective, ethnic backgrounds, are these people who are within certain income thresholds, etc.,” Ravitz said.

The new pilot canvassing program involves enrollment specialists going door to door in communities throughout Hartford, Fairfield, Norwalk and Bridgeport -- cities that have higher uninsured rates, according to federal data.

Workers can answer questions, provide information and show residents health plan options in person. Ravitz said it’s been a way to connect with people in underserved populations, like immigrants, who may fear seeking health services or going to a public enrollment fair because of more strict federal policies.

“The communities that we serve are extremely diverse, not only from a cultural background, but ethnic and language,” Ravitz said. “All these different things are going to play such a crucial part when it comes to deciding something as crucial, as personal, and as important as insurance.”

Fear likely will have an impact on uninsured rates, Ravitz said, particularly among families with mixed immigration status. For example, if a mother and father do not have legal status but their children do, Access Health officials can help get the children insured.

“But I know firsthand that those parents are going to probably think twice before even coming to talk to somebody because they’re afraid, because there’s fear around it,” Ravitz said.

The canvassing program could serve as one solution to that problem, she said, and ultimately help more Connecticut residents get health insurance.

For a list of upcoming Access Health Connecticut enrollment fairs, go to learn.accesshealthct.com/findus

Nicole Leonard joined Connecticut Public Radio to cover health care after several years of reporting for newspapers. In her native state of New Jersey, she covered medical and behavioral health care, as well as arts and culture, for The Press of Atlantic City. Her work on stories about domestic violence and childhood food insecurity won awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

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