Where We Live: Rolling Out the Health Care Exchange

Oct 1, 2013

Kevin Counihan.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

Join us while we talk about the new Connecticut health care exchange on Where We Live. Listen live here.

9:11 am: Kevin Counihan, CEO of Connecticut's health insurance exchange, says Access Health CT is up and running. He says plenty of people are visiting the site and it's active. "It's a highly complex implementation," he says, citing lots of support in the state for the health care exchange.

9:13 am: Arielle Levin-Becker says lots of people have questions about how Access Health CT is supposed to work. "Ease can sometimes be a relative concern," says Counihan. Most applicants will need help enrolling. He says they're prepared for people's questions and needs.

9:14 am: Jeff Cohen says there has been criticism that outreach hasn't gone far enough to make sure people enroll in the new health care exchange. Counihan agrees. "As people see the value of the subsidies," he says, people will be very keen to enroll.

9:16 am: Zack Cooper, assistant professor of health policy and economics at Yale University, says this roll-out isn't really a big deal. It's just helping people who need access to health care to get the care they need. Once we see it in action, people will realize what a benefit it can be. 

9:20 am: Levin-Becker says a 2011 study showed that businesses would eventually have to pay more for comprehensive health care coverage. "I learned from Massachusetts not to predict," says Counihan. "But firms on the lower end of the small market are going to be looking at the options of exchanges for their employees. But it's early to predict."

9:23 am: If your health care is currently unaffordable, says Counihan, you may be eligible for insurance at the new state health care exchange. Cooper says, "As an employer, I want to keep my employers happy," and that includes making sure they have insurance.

9:25 am: What's in it for small businesses? Increased choice, says Counihan, and the ability to buy insurance for employees of small firms. 

9:29 am: Levin-Becker asks if people who have been working on the federal data hub people are still on the job. Counihan says yes, they are.

9:30 am: "Lost in all this technocratic minutia" are people who are really genuinely getting help by this new law, says Cooper. "This idea of spend more, get more -- it's actually spend less, get more."

9:32 am: Caller Rasheem says he knows a lot of people who need health care but don't have it, including a young man who was using someone else's inhaler, and a young woman who was in a lot of pain but avoided going to the hospital. "It's a shame that we have insurance on our cars, and insurance on our houses" but we haven't yet insured people.

9:36 am: Cohen asks how good the new coverage really is. Cooper says it has to offer preventive care, and it can't stop covering you if you cost the insurer too much money. "The value of these policies is actually going up." Counihan says there are three types of insurance: the gold tier, which is the most expensive plan; silver: the most common; and bronze: the catastrophic plan.

9:38 am: Caller Jim asks if his doctor can refuse him if he shifts to using the health care exchange. Counihan says no. 

9:40 am: Levin-Becker says a lot of people are excited about the coming additional coverage, but free clinics are expanding and preparing to continue to see plenty of uninsured people. Counihan says the goal is to reach a level of two to three percent uninsured. Connecticut is currently at 9.6 percent uninsured, he says.

9:41 am: Caller Brandon wants to know what the consequences will be of not taking advantage of the new health care exchange, given his age (young) and his health (good). Counihan says preparing for the future includes having health insurance. "It's actually a pretty good financial purchase," he says.

9:43 am: Cohen says there's the "individual mandate" side of the Affordable Care Act -- we don't want to force people to get care if they don't want it -- and the "actuarial" side of it relating to risk and benefit. Cooper says more young people in the market will distribute risk, and insurance markets do better with more people enrolled.

9:51 am: How much is the new health care exchange costing the state of Connecticut? Cohen says a portion of the population will call in to a call center to enroll, and asked for the contract to see how much the state is paying for it. "That pricing turns out to be not publicly disclosable," he says. Counihan first wants the public to know the number for the call center: 855-805-4325. An average call will be 45 minutes, he adds. "The reality is the state of Connecticut isn't paying one nickel [for the call centers]. This is all federal money." Also, he says, the ACA is meant to be deficit-neutral. "Now let's get to your question," he says. "The law allows firms, whether they contract with the government or private firms, to be able to make confidential and private certain issues. Price is considered to be one of those. They've issued their own press release, estimating the value of this contract to be $15 million over three years." How they arrived at the price is considered a "trade secret."

9:54 am: Caller Bill says the Access Health CT web site is still not working, and that the public relations campaign has been pretty ineffective. Counihan says, "I agree we have a ways to go, but I think we've made a start."

9:55 am: Access Health CT is planning storefronts. The first one will open in New Britain. It'll have a "genius bar" like Apple stores where people can get help enrolling.

9:57 am: Caller Glenda says the leading cause of death for young men is accidents. Insurance should be a big help to them. Levin-Becker says in some states, campaigns to get people to enroll have focused on moms trying to persuade their children in support of Glenda's point. And that's a wrap -- thanks for joining us.