The Health Insurance Exchange is a component of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. It charges each state with addressing how they will be providing health care coverage for the unfortunate millions of uninsured people in this country, or declining that priviledge and letting the Federal Government assume that design. It's authority is approved and it will operate at no cost to the states, having been fully funded by the Federal government through 2014!
Under the Affordable Care Act everyone will either have to purchase health insurance privately or through their state's health insurance exchange by January 1, 2014. Those who are covered by their employers's insurance are already set and will not see changes. People with pre-existing conditions will no longer need to fear rejection of coverage by insurance companies. Lifetime limits on the cost of care will become a thing of the past. We've already seen young people covered who previously were uninsured, but who can now remain on their parent's health insurance up to the age of 26. The Insurance Exchange will be offering subsidies to qualifying individuals and families as, for instance, in some circumstances, to a qualifying family of four earning $92,000/year. Enrollment is due to begin on October 1, 2013, and that's just right around the corner, so to speak. So, why is all of this so important right now, and why do we need to understand what the role of the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange is in this complex process? Because right now you have a chance to ask questions, be heard in public forums, have input into how the Exchange will function in Connecticut, to see if you and your family qualify for any subsidies, to see how your small business can be helped and, in general, to learn about this process.
It has been determined that over 30 million people in our country currently do not have health insurance and this is a problem on many levels for those individuals and families, for the communities in which they live, for our public health systems around the country, for our Federally Qualified and other Community Health Centers, for our schools, for the hospital emergency rooms that often see these people at the highest source of care in our system, and for the businesses who employ them and often can't afford to cover them. In Connecticut, this represents about 380,000 people or about 11% of our population.
Connecticut is ahead of the Presidential deadline of December 16, 2012 that was provided to the States' Governors to declare whether they were going to set up their own State-specific insurance exchanges, or to declare that they were going to step back and have the Federal government step in to do it for them. Those choosing not to do so on their own will have given up a great opportunity to customize their state's plan to their citizen's unique needs...and at no cost to themselves or their citizens. In either case, each state and the District of Columbia will have such an open market for those individuals needing insurance to seek the best and most cost-effective options for them and their families. Check out the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange's user friendly website at http://www.ct.gov/hix/site/default.asp to see how they will be increasing access, improving affordablity, supporting consumers as they select a plan to meet their needs and pocketbooks, and supporting small businesses to offer employer-sponsored health insurance. Its stated purpose is to "increase the number of insured CT residents, improve health
care quality, lower costs and reduce health disparities while providing an exceptional consumer experience".
Here in Connecticut Governor Malloy acted quickly on this mandate and has established our Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange which has accomplished an enormous amount of groundwork already. He gave it broad support by creating it as a Cabinet level department that has been staffed by the state. It offers on-line shopping and guidance for the required insurance and has received a $107 million dollar Federal grant to facilitate this. Again, check out the website for frequently asked questions and for information on specific topics.
In order to get the word out to the public, and to get valuable input from the public, the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange is hosting a series of public forums around the state called "Let's Chat". It is important that this opportunity gets out to all the people with all their diverse and special needs. These are open meetings where the participants will be able to meet and talk with the Exchange CEO, Kevin Counihan, as well as with a panel of additional health care reform experts. I am so honored to have been invited to be one of these panelists at the Stamford forum and would look forward to meeting you there, as would each of the panelists at the other meetings.
Each forum will begin with refreshments at 5 PM and run from 5:30 to 7:30 in each location; these include, Hartford, Waterbury, New London, New Haven, New Britain, Stamford, and Bridgeport.
See this link for the "Let's Chat" public Forums and please spread the word. http://www.ct.gov/hix/cwp/view.asp?a=4299&q=513848 To find out more about the public forums you can call 860-418- 6420.
A country like ours should be leading the world in health care and getting our millions of uninsured people covered is a great place to start! Please help get the word out to providers, community members, places of worship, medical offices, libraries and other places where people can learn of these public forums and come share their issues, suggestions, and special needs or concerns.