State health exchange meets goals

Colorado uninsured numbers unclear

Fontneau Enlarge photo


DENVER – Colorado’s health-insurance exchange has enrolled 128,000 people since its launch last fall and is on track to meet its enrollment goals this year, leaders of the exchange told legislators Thursday.

Those numbers include 1,966 people in La Plata County, 547 in Montezuma and 505 in Archuleta.

The Legislature created the health-insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, in 2011 in order to offer one website for individuals and businesses to shop for health insurance from private companies. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states could either create their own exchanges or use the federal website.

The state and federal websites had troubled launches, but the numbers recovered as the March 31 open-enrollment deadline approached.

“It dramatically skewed younger toward the end of open enrollment,” said Patty Fontneau, CEO of Connect for Health Colorado, at an oversight hearing Thursday.

The numbers appear to make a sizeable dent in the number of uninsured Coloradans, when coupled with the 178,000 low-income Coloradans signed up for government insurance through Medicaid. Last year, between 700,000 and 800,000 Coloradans lacked health insurance.

However, Fontneau could not answer how many of the exchange’s customers were uninsured because federal regulations do not require many customers to say whether they are uninsured. But of the exchange customers who answered the question, about half said they lacked insurance until they got it through Connect for Health Colorado, Fontneau said. The exchange’s leaders are working to get a better answer on how much good they are doing for the uninsured, she said.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, doubted the exchange had done any good because more than 300,000 Coloradans received notices that their insurance plans would be discontinued because they did not meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act.

“We ought to know something about it is working or is it not working,” Lundberg said. “Guesses aren’t good enough.”

However, more than 9 out of 10 people with “canceled” policies were offered different plans by their insurance companies. Fontneau said most of those people stuck with their insurance companies and did not shift to the exchange.

Lundberg Enlarge photo


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