Coverage through CT's health exchange will soon be more affordable for many. Here's what you need to know

Gildred Ortiz, center and Julio Colon, right, receive help from outreach worker for Access Health CT, Cristela Solorio Ruiz during a grand opening for Connecticut's health insurance exchange's first insurance store, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in New Britain, Conn. The site, where people can visit to sign up for health coverage, is the first in the nation. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Gildred Ortiz, center and Julio Colon, right, receive help from outreach worker for Access Health CT, Cristela Solorio Ruiz during a grand opening for Connecticut's health insurance exchange's first insurance store, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in New Britain, Conn. The site, where people can visit to sign up for health coverage, is the first in the nation. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Jessica Hill / Associated Press

Starting May 1, the state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, will open a special enrollment period for residents who want to take advantage of additional subsidies that will help make coverage more affordable for many.

The subsidies are backed by funding included in President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, authorized in March. The aid runs through the end of 2022, and state officials are hoping it will be extended.

Many residents who didn’t previously qualify for premium tax credits will be eligible starting in May, while those who did qualify may see increased benefits. Premium tax credits lower the monthly payment a consumer must make to an insurance company for coverage.

State health officials say they’re hoping to use the enrollment period to reach the roughly 200,000 residents who are uninsured and thousands of others who are underinsured.

Workers with Access Health CT will use census tract data to conduct targeted outreach in the coming weeks, connecting with uninsured people and the 10,000 or so residents who are enrolled in individual plans off the exchange. The subsidies only apply to policies purchased through Access Health.

“Some folks may have come in back in December and said, ‘I cannot afford this. So I’ll just go without insurance.’ We’ve got to make sure they know they can come in now, and it may be affordable because of the American Rescue Plan,” said James Michel, CEO of Access Health.

Here five things to know about the upcoming enrollment period:

Who qualifies for the additional subsidies?

Prior to the American Rescue Plan’s adoption, only people whose household income was at or below 400% of the federal poverty level qualified for subsidies. Beginning next month, Connecticut residents above that threshold will also qualify. Many people at or below 400% FPL will be eligible for increased subsidies.

How much will I save?

Eligibility for premium tax credits depends on the number of people in a household and the household’s total expected income for a year.

Prior to the American Rescue Plan, a household under 138% of the federal poverty level would contribute up to 2.07% of its annual income to the coverage; beginning in May, it will be 0%. A household at 200% to 250% of the federal poverty level now contributes up to 6.52% to 8.33% of its annual income; that will change to 2% to 4% starting next month.

For qualifying residents above 400% of the federal poverty level (income of $51,040 for one person), their annual contributions will be capped at 8.5% beginning in May.

“Anyone who is at 400% of the federal poverty level and above, they’re going to save, on average, over $500 a month in premium dollars,” Michel said at a press conference in March. “That’s over $6,000 a year to American families in that particular situation. Right now there are about 17% of our customers who pay no premium at all, because they have a big enough subsidy to cover the entire payment. After the American Rescue Plan is implemented, that amount goes up to over 50%.”

The average savings per household will be $116.05 per month, or $1,392.57 per year, Access Health said. More than half of households currently in a qualified health plan will pay under $16 per month for their health insurance.

How long is the enrollment period?

The open enrollment period runs from May 1 to Aug. 15.

When does coverage begin, and when will additional subsidies be applied?

For new people signing up, coverage will begin the first day of the month following enrollment. So if someone signs up on May 10, that person’s coverage would begin on June 1.

The same is true for the subsidies. People who contact Access Health to take advantage of additional subsidies in May will see the savings applied on June 1. Anyone who is enrolled in a health plan on the exchange who is signed up for automatic renewal will see savings automatically applied on July 1 if they don’t manually update their account before that time.

How do I sign up?

Residents can update their accounts or sign up or coverage on AccessHealthCT.com or by calling 855-805-4325. Access Health officials said they are increasing staffing at their call center to prepare for an influx of calls.

Access Health is also holding in-person appointments at its enrollment centers, though appointments are required.