August 14, 2009
Governor M. Jodi Rell today hailed the one-year anniversary of her landmark Charter Oak Health Plan, a ground-breaking initiative providing access to affordable health care now serving more than 10,000 Connecticut residents.
“A little over a year ago, I announced the start of a program I said would change the face of health care in Connecticut – change it for the better and change it forever,” Governor Rell said. “Today that program is covering 10,257 individuals and another 5,884 applicants are eligible for coverage as soon as they select from one of three contracted health plans and begin paying monthly premiums.
“That means more than 10,000 people who – a year ago – had no health coverage or could not afford the coverage they had now have affordable health care,” the Governor said. “That is an accomplishment worth celebrating. From routine checkups to treatment for life-threatening illness, the program is filling a critical gap. ”
On June 30, 2008, Governor Rell visited the Town Line Diner in Wethersfield to announce that the state would begin taking applications for Charter Oak the next day.
At that news conference, Governor Rell was joined by Andrea Bryant of Manchester, a long-time employee of the Wethersfield Diner on Silas Deane Highway who was one of the first people to sign up for Charter Oak. The Governor noted that the program was intended to help people like Ms. Bryant – employees of small businesses that cannot always afford to offer their staff a health care plan.
In the year since Charter Oak began, Ms. Bryant has become an informal ambassador of sorts for the program among her friends and customers.
“I tell people about how it has helped me and how they can apply like I did,” Ms. Bryant said as Charter Oak marked its first anniversary. “I guess I’m in the right business to talk to a lot of people who need this kind of coverage.”
While the great majority of Connecticut residents already have health coverage in some form, either through employer-sponsored programs or public programs such as HUSKY, Medicaid and State-Administered General Assistance, Charter Oak helps to cover a number of gaps, including people who cannot afford the high cost of COBRA coverage for workers who have recently lost their jobs.
“Charter Oak is also available to retirees too young to qualify for Medicare, and for young adults as they grow out of the HUSKY program or go off their parents’ health insurance,” Governor Rell said.
A critical element of the Charter Oak Health Plan is its acceptance of applicants regardless of their medical history or pre-existing conditions. In addition, the program offers the same benefits and cost structure to all members, in contrast to many health insurance products that “individually rate,” charging enrollees based on their medical history.
“Many people find that pre-existing medical conditions can prevent them from getting coverage in the first place or price it so far out of reach that it is effectively unavailable,” the Governor noted. “Charter Oak removes this barrier. I insisted on a program that would offer true access to health coverage for all of the uninsured, not just those in excellent health. As a result, we have been able to fill a gap in coverage and help many people who had nowhere else to go to protect their health and financial security.”
The Governor thanked Connecticut doctors, hospitals and other health care providers who have joined the growing networks in Charter Oak-contracted health plans over the past year. The plans are operated by Aetna Better Health, AmeriChoice by UnitedHealthcare and Community Health Network of Connecticut. Charter Oak plans are responsible for arranging and coordinating health care benefits for enrollees. Out-of-network services are approved when necessary.
“As more and more Connecticut residents enroll in Charter Oak, I believe we are showing that gradual, pragmatic approaches like the one Connecticut has pioneered have genuine value and potential, especially in this economy,” the Governor said.
There is no income test or asset limit to qualify for Charter Oak coverage. Enrollees earning more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) currently pay a flat, unsubsidized monthly premium of $259. Enrollees with incomes below 300 percent of the FPL pay reduced, subsidized premiums ranging from $75 to $200 monthly, depending on income and family size.
Charter Oak’s annual, income-based deductible ranges from $150 to $900. The deductible does not apply to primary and specialist doctor visits, ambulance and emergency room care, behavioral health services, pre- and post-natal care, prescription medications and certain other benefits.
The Charter Oak Health Plan is administered by the Department of Social Services. For information about benefits, costs and applying, the public can call 1-877-77-CTOAK or visit www.charteroakhealthplan.com