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Colorado health insurance exchange / marketplace

CO extends deadline for in-process applications

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The 2015 open enrollment period for private insurance has ended on Connect for Health Colorado. The exchange will still accept your enrollment for March 1 coverage if you’d started the application process as of Feb. 15. The Connect for Health Colorado website doesn’t list a specific cut-off date for completing the process.

If you don’t have coverage and didn’t start an application by Feb. 15, you can purchase insurance only if you have a qualifying event during the year. Enrollment for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) are open all year.

More than 186,000 as of Jan. 31

About 186,500 people signed up for health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado between Nov. 15, 2014, and Jan. 31: 125,378 people signed up for private health plans, 58,235 people signed up for Medicaid, and 2,884 people signed up for CHP+.

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 sought a $4 million increase for the service center, explaining that the money was needed to handle higher than anticipated call volume due to a big change in subsidy amounts between 2014 and 2015. The board did not immediately approve the requested increase. Rather, it approved $875,000 at the time and an additional $300,000 in December.

In January 2015, the Connect for Health board of directors approved $322,000 in emergency spending to address enrollment system problems. The emergency spending was needed to fund workarounds to help people complete the enrollment process, but did not address the underlying problem.

In early February, Connect for Health requested $2.8 million  again for the service center. The board deferred making a decision.

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 stepped in for Patty Fontneau, who took a position with CIGNA. Connect for Health expects to announce a permanent replacement in February or March 2015.

A limited performance 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.

Citing the 2014 audit findings, the Colorado Senate in early 2015 passed two bills for increased oversight of the exchange. SB 19 authorized an in-depth performance audit, while SB 52 authorized committee review of any proposed bonuses for Connect for Health staff members. Both bills are under consideration in the House as of February 2014.

In the House, HB 1066 did not make it out of the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. That bill sought to end operation of Connect for Health Colorado.

Several thousand consumers encountered technical problems during 2015 open enrollment. About 25 issues were identified. The exact number of individuals affected wasn’t clear, but the issues mainly affected those who qualified  for Medicaid or premium subsidies.

In late January, Connect for Health issued a press release explaining an issue that affected about 3,600 of more 73,000 policies that were eligible for automatic renewal. The glitch was triggered when the affected consumers browsed for new plans. Some individuals were auto-renewed, but wanted to switch to different coverage. Others wanted to renew but were not re-enrolled in coverage. Officials contacted the affected consumers by phone and email to verify how each wanted to proceed.

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.