When Access Health CT, Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace, doubled down on its push to increase access to health insurance among the state’s residents, there was only so much room for growth. A mere 5.9% of the state is uninsured (compared to the national average of 9.2%); at 80.4 years, its resident life expectancy ranks among the longest in the nation.

Those numbers, however, conceal some unfortunate shortfalls. Hispanics in Connecticut are four times more likely to be uninsured than non-Hispanic whites, while Black people are three times as likely to be uninsured compared to white people.

Life expectancy in Westport, which happens to be 91% white, is 89.1 years. In Northeast Hartford, where 94% of the population is Black or Hispanic, it is only 68.9 years.

For Access Health CT CEO James Michel, the issue is personal. One of 11 children from a Haitian family that immigrated to Brooklyn, he saw much in common between his life and the people the marketplace is trying to reach.

“I have a connection to most of our customers,” he said. “For me, it’s personal. I know the value of having access, so it’s more than a job. It’s a mission.”

Last year, Access Health CT dove deep into the data, commissioning an eight-month study that included a host of interviews with Connecticut residents and community leaders. Armed with the results, the organization has embarked on a plan to reduce Connecticut’s health disparities.

Michel stressed the importance of making the findings feel urgent enough to inspire action.

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“I wanted to have something that would grab policy makers and community leaders and drive them to do something,” he said.” I didn’t just want data. I wanted to have an image to get people emotionally connected to the issue.”

That image came in the form of an infographic comparing the lives of Tyler, born in predominantly white West Hartford, and Marcus, born in Northeast Hartford. It showed how health disparity shaped every stage in their lives, including Marcus’ earlier death.

Access Health CT has also created an insurance broker academy that will serve three Connecticut cities: Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport. The academy will recruit students from underserved communities and train them to help community members navigate health insurance options.

“We looked at different opportunities and avenues, but this one made the most sense for us,” Michel said. “It hits at the problems of the uninsured and health disparities, but also provides economic development and training for communities that have been ignored by this profession.”

The academy hopes to enroll 100 students, and Access Health CT will cover all expenses.

“We will remove the intimidating factors and pay for everything: the class, the examination and the license,” Michel continued. “We hope to make sure people understand the value they can offer to the community as well as the economic opportunity for them.”