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Colorado health insurance exchange

CO exchange: 151K signups, but IT problems stall thousands more

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The second open enrollment period is now in progress on Connect for Health Colorado. Open enrollment for private insurance continues through Feb. 15, 2015. Enrollment for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) are open all year.

Private coverage purchased by Jan. 15 will be effective Feb. 1, while coverage purchased between Jan. 16 and Feb. 15 — which is the end of open enrollment — will be effective March 1.

More than 151,000 enroll despite IT problems

More than 151,000 people signed up for health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31, 2014: 113,864 people signed up for private health plans, 35,981 people signed up for Medicaid, and 1,517 people signed up for CHP+.

While many consumers are successfully completing the enrollment process, thousands of others are encountering technical problems. About 25 issues have been identified. The number of individuals affected isn’t clear, but the issues are mainly affecting those who qualify for Medicaid or premium subsidies.

Need help? It’s free

Connect for Health Colorado wants consumers to know they can get help with enrollment. The Connect for Health prominently promotes a free, state-wide network of in-person assistors. Guides can help you understand the options and fill out the forms. Certified brokers can provide in-depth advice about which plans are best for you. You can also visit an enrollment center; call to make an appointment or just walk in.

2015 premiums

Regions of Colorado had some of the nation’s highest premiums through the marketplace in 2014, so it’s very welcome news that the average increase for individual plans is just .71 percent. For 2015, the state Department of Insurance created larger and fewer geographic regions in establishing rates. This action helped moderate — and even decrease — rates in some regions.

Connect for Health features 15 insurers offering 176 individual/family options. Two of the insurers are offering multi-state plans.

2015 budget

The Connect for Health board approved a $66.4 million budget for the fiscal year running from July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015. The budget includes a $1.25 per-member-per-month assessment on insurance carriers, which officials say will allow the marketplace to maintain an operating reserve of $13 million. The assessment applies to all policies, not just those sold through the marketplace. According to Health News Colorado, the 2015 budget includes:

  •  $29.5 million for technology
  •  $13.6 million for the customer service center
  •  $7 million for salaries, legal and accounting fees, and travel
  •  $6 million for the assistance network
  •  $4.8 million for marketing, communication and outreach
  •  $2.3 million for consulting and operations

However, the exchange has gone back to the board repeatedly for more money.

In September 2014, the board approved $3.5 million for additional technology licensing fees.

In November 2014, Connect for Health increased the budget for the service center by $4 million. The money is needed to handle higher than anticipated call volume due to a big change in subsidy amounts between 2014 and 2015.

In January 2015, the Connect for Health board of directors approved $322,000 in emergency spending to address enrollment system problems. The emergency spending will not fix the system. Rather, it will be used to fund workarounds to help people complete the enrollment process.

Connect for Health Colorado enrollment in 2014

Connect for Health Colorado, the state-run health insurance exchange, far exceeded the qualified health plan (QHP) enrollment target of 92,000 set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Connect for Health Colorado announced more than 129,000 people had signed up for QHPs as of April 23. Through special enrollment periods, QHP enrollment grew to 137,000 as of mid-2014. In addition, nearly 182,000 people qualified for the state’s expanded Medicaid program.

Only 60 percent of those Coloradans who purchased private insurance qualified for assistance to offset the cost. Nationally, 85 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 40 percent of 2014 plans sold in Colorado were bronze plans compared to 20 percent nationally.

Background on Colorado’s exchange

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 interim CEO Gary Drews. Drews replaces Patty Fontneau, who took a position with CIGNA.

An audit conducted by the Colorado Office of the State Auditor in 2014 found problems with how Connect for Health Colorado handled its finances. The audit found that Connect for Health Colorado lacked adequate financial controls, such as not properly tracking payments and not following federal requirements for administering contracts. Auditors made four recommendations for improvements. Connect for Health officials accepted the recommendations and said they will implement them.

Colorado health insurance exchange links

Connect for Health Colorado
855-PLANS-4-YOU (855-752-6749)

State Exchange Profile: Colorado
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Colorado’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.