Colorado health insurance exchange
Connect for Health Colorado enrollment surge
By Carla Anderson
December 10, 2013
Connect for Health Colorado saw a 50 percent increase during the first week of December in the number of consumers who had purchased private health insurance. More than 5,000 signed up for private insurance during the first nine days of December, compared to 9,980 through all of October and November. When Medicaid qualifications are included, about 80,000 Coloradans have gained health insurance coverage.
Connect for Health Colorado announced expanded customer service hours to accommodate the jump in enrollment. The call center will be open three Sundays in December to handle an anticipated last-minute rush to meet the Dec. 23 sign-up deadline to have coverage begin Jan. 1.
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 assistance site through an online search tool.
According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Colorado is $232 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
According to Kaiser’s State Health Facts, 16 percent of Colorado’s under-65 population is uninsured. Exchange planners expected 136,000 Coloradans to purchase coverage through the exchange in its first year of operation. However, given the low enrollment in October and November, the board is re-evaluating enrollment targets.
Colorado health insurance exchange links
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.