By Megan Comlossy

As the March 31 open enrollment deadline looms, some states are making a final push to sign people up for health insurance through health insurance marketplaces. In Connecticut, like many states, those last-minute shoppers can sign up online or dial a call center for assistance. Residents of the Constitution State, however, have a third option. They can shop the old fashioned way—by walking into a real-life brick and mortar store.  

Access Health CT office in ConnecticutModeled after the Apple Store, these Enrollment Centers offer a physical location for people to learn about their health insurance options and enroll in a plan. Trained and certified brokers and “navigators” brightly clad in solid orange shirts meet folks at the door and help them through what might otherwise be a baffling process.

Access Health CT, the state’s insurance marketplace and the entity responsible for Enrollment Centers, has focused on making the process as simple as possible, according to CEO Kevin Counihan. While the storefront locations are the most visible effort, these one-stop-shops are just one tool the state has used to conduct its outreach and enrollment efforts.

The marketplace’s easy-to-navigate website,, is another. It has avoided many of the hiccups others have experienced by maintaining the less-is-more outlook. As Counihan recently explained to MarketWatch, “We created a Ford Focus instead of a Ferrari.”  

As of March 1, more than 131,000 people had successfully signed up for health insurance, exceeding the state’s goal of 100,000 for the open enrollment period.

But old-fashioned storefronts and a functional website were only two pieces of the larger puzzle. The state developed marketing campaigns to educate Connecticut residents about the law, using media, direct mail, in-person events and social media, as well as television, print, online and outdoor advertising. Access Health CT continues to go out into the community—providing information at fairs, festivals, concerts and other community events. In addition, a Spanish language website and TV series, called “Mercado de Salud,” aim to educate and engage the Hispanic community.

As the first open enrollment period closes March 31, states will likely be looking at their enrollment numbers, evaluating their approach to outreach and enrollment, and seriously considering how best to bump numbers up when the next open enrollment period begins Nov. 15.  

And other states may be looking to friends in Connecticut. Having been approached by numerous states for assistance, Access Health CT officials are considering consulting other states, franchising a sort of “exchange in the box,” and working out deals to license their website software to other states.

In the meantime, people may continue to enroll in Medicaid, which has no enrollment deadline.

Megan Comlossy is a policy specialist with NCSL's health program. Email Megan.


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