By Carla Anderson
March 4, 2014
Connect for Health Colorado announced that nearly 80,000 people have signed up for private health plans and more than 128,000 have qualified for Medicaid as of Feb. 17.
According to enrollment data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), only 55 percent of those Coloradans who purchased private insurance qualified for assistance to offset the cost. Nationally, 82 percent qualified for financial assistance. Colorado’s relatively low rate of financial assistance and the high premiums in some areas of the state explain why 38 percent of plans sold in Colorado are bronze plans compared to 19 percent nationally.
March 31 is the last day to enroll in a private health plan for coverage in 2014. After that date, individuals who do not have health insurance may have to pay a penalty: $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater. Enrollment for Medicaid continues throughout the year.
Gov. John Hickenlooper informed the federal government in October 2012 that Colorado intended to run its own health insurance marketplace, and the state received federal approval of its plan in December 2012.
Unlike politicians in most other states, Colorado legislators voted on a bipartisan basis to move ahead with a state-run exchange. Legislation to establish the state marketplace passed in May 2011 and was signed by Hickenlooper in June 2011. In early 2013, marketplace was given the brand name “Connect for Health Colorado.”
Colorado’s marketplace is governed by a 12-member board and led by Executive Director and CEO Patty Fontneau. The board began meeting regularly in 2011, as did several advisory workgroups. The exchange has decided to limit the use of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Exchange to employers with 50 or fewer employees for the first two years (2014 and 2015). Operations (for example, the website and the call center) for the individual and SHOP exchanges will be managed jointly. However, the risk pools will be managed separately.
Connect for Health Colorado offers 150 health plans from 10 companies for individuals and families. Small businesses can choose from 92 health plans from six companies. About 1,300 certified insurance agents and brokers are available to help Colorado consumers. In addition, about 400 “health coverage guides” are certified to provide in-person assistance; guides can help consumers understand their options, but can’t promote a particular insurer or policy. Consumers can locate agents and brokers or an assistance site through an online search tool.
According to Kaiser’s State Health Facts, 16 percent of Colorado’s under-65 population is uninsured.
Connect for Health Colorado
State Exchange Profile: Colorado
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Colorado’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.