Congressman Jim Himes, whose district includes most of Shelton, has issued a statement to inform constituents about increased access to healthcare and how the quality of their insurance is improving \u2014 and will continue to improve \u2014 as the federal healthcare law is implemented. \u201cWith Connecticut residents already benefiting from free preventive services, Medicare discounts on prescription drugs, and provisions that help those with pre-existing conditions and people ages 21 to 25 get or keep their coverage, it is clear that the Affordable Care Act is expanding access to care and helping consumers get the biggest bang for their buck,\u201d said Himes, a Democrat in his third term. Himes released statement because on Saturday, Access Health CT will begin an effort to inform people about the health insurance opportunities that will be available through the new health insurance exchanges. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, was approved by U.S. Congress in 2010. Himes supported the legislation, which also has its share of vocal critics. Health insurance exchange Access Health CT is the health insurance exchange for Connecticut, and through its website, will offer various health insurance plans from outside providers to the public. Under the new law, these exchanges will be set up in every state, either by state governments or the federal government. \u201cStarting in October,\u201d Himes said, \u201cindividuals and families in Connecticut will have an online one-stop shop to find the plan that\u2019s right for them at the best price \u2014 and the tax credits put in place by the Affordable Care Act will make these plans even more affordable for many families.\u201d Public educational meetings In the coming weeks, a series of informational meetings \u2014 being promoted as\u00a0 \u201cHealthy Chats\u201d \u2014 will take place around the state. The meetings are being organized by Access Health CT so people can learn more about how Access Health CT will work and ask questions about the exchange system. The first session will take place Tuesday, Aug. 13 from 6-8 p.m. at the Meriden Public Library, 105 Miller St., Meriden. The meeting for this region will be held Wednesday, Sept. 4 from 6-8 p.m. at Housatonic Community College, 900 Lafayette Blvd., Bridgeport. The complete meeting schedule is: Aug. 13, Meriden Aug. 20, Waterbury Aug. 22, New Britain Sept. 4, Bridgeport Sept. 7, Hartford Healthcare increases slowing down? Himes said the rate of increase of healthcare costs has begun to slow down since the Affordable Care Act became law. Before healthcare reform was passed, healthcare costs were growing at a rate of 6% to 10% per year, he said. This rate is now down to just 4%. This means the provisions in the Affordable Care Act to help slow the cost of health care \u2014 including reductions in payments to hospitals with high levels of re-admissions and incentives for hospitals and doctors who save money by using new delivery methods \u2014 are working, according to a press release from Himes\u2019 office. \u201cAdditionally, the cost of healthcare will further decline when the affordable insurance exchanges open on Oct. 1, forcing insurance companies to directly compete for business,\u201d stated the Himes release. \u201cInstant tax credits will also be available to help most lower income and middle class families pay for health insurance. Rates may decrease for some Access Health CT recently announced the initial state Insurance Department health care rates to be available through the exchange. \u201cThis is good news,\u201d Access Health CT CEO Kevin Counihan said at the time, \u201cbecause our preliminary analysis indicates that many residents in Connecticut may actually see their insurance rates go down, while for those who may see increases, they will be far less than was predicted even just a few months ago. \u201cThese rates are a clear signal that the introduction of a competitive marketplace works,\u201d Counihan continued, \u201cand gets us one step closer to our goal: access to quality, affordable health care, with freedom to choose from a variety of high quality plans for the people in Connecticut who currently don\u2019t have it.\u201d About Access Health CT Access Health CT (also known as the Exchange) was created by the state Legislature in 2011 and is a quasi-public agency established to meet requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.\u00a0 Its mission is to increase the number of insured residents in Connecticut, promote health, lower costs and eliminate health disparities. Access Health CT is working to provide a simple online shopping and enrollment process for state residents and small businesses, starting with open enrollment this October. Learn more at www.AccessHealthCT.com.