By Rosana Garcia
Last week, Access Health CT (AHCT) hosted their first annual Community Conference, ahead of the fourth Open Enrollment period, which starts November 1. The conference was geared towards the organizations and Certified Application Counselors who help enroll people in health plans or HUSKY (CT’s Medicaid) on the AHCT marketplace. Workshops included ways to reach diverse communities and how to talk about options. See some highlights here.
What I found most refreshing about the conference was how open all AHCT staff were to critique and feedback. In fact, Jim Wadleigh, CEO of AHCT, was frank about AHCT’s mistakes and where they could do better. For example:
- Complaints about the call center led AHCT to contract with a new vendor for this Open Enrollment period, and going forward.
- Wadleigh said that he is aware that AHCT needs to ensure that outreach and support is available year-round, and says that even though they aren’t quite sure how to accomplish that, they are looking for solutions (Wadleigh hinted that they may be opening two new storefronts in the future).
- Admitting that past marketing materials were subpar, Wadleigh also spoke on how the organization is working to improve those materials.
- AHCT was very public about needing to hear from everyone about problems they are having with the exchange, and encouraged those in the room to get in touch.
Access Health CT has had its ups and downs over the years. Out of the gate, in the first ACA Open Enrollment period (2013), Connecticut was recognized as one of the best exchanges in the country. Despite issues, it is important to remember what AHCT and the state has done well with the ACA, including:
- Connecticut was one of the first states to embrace Medicaid expansion (under HUSKY D), making HUSKY available to low-income adults.
- Connecticut is one of 13 states to have their own state-based marketplace.
- Access Health CT requires all insurers to offer at least one health plan that is a Standardized Plan, which makes it easier for consumers to compare plans when enrolling.
This is not to say that this year’s Open Enrollment won’t be without its challenges. There are quite a few wrenches in the works this year, many out of AHCT’s control, including:
- The exit of HealthyCT and UnitedHealthcare from the marketplace,
- Double-digit premium rate increases, and
- The loss of brokers to help steer consumers to a plan that works for them (AHCT’s call center will have 20 brokers available, but some worry that won’t be enough).
It is very encouraging that Access Health CT is willing to admit to its problems, actively seek solutions, encourage critique and feedback, and promise to be responsive. In the end, Access Health CT’s success at overcoming its challenges will be critical for those who rely on them for access to health insurance. We’re rooting for AHCT to continue to improve and looking forward to next year’s conference.
To see a collection of tweets from the conference, check out this Storify.
For any questions regarding AHCT’s community outreach initiatives, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.