Colo. insurance enrollment slower than some hoped

DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s state-run health exchange has been largely free of the headaches seen on the federally run shopping portal. But some exchange overseers say enrollments should be picking up at a faster pace.

State health insurance exchange officials said Monday they have 3,164 enrollments through Connect For Health Colorado. Exchange officials have insisted they’re on pace to meet the goal of enrolling 136,000 people by the end of 2014.

However, Colorado’s health insurance marketplace hasn’t been without glitches, The Denver Post reported (http://bit.ly/17U5E8d). Marketplace officials have delayed the opening of the online subsidies application and calculator until Nov. 4 — meaning that until then customers can’t finish the process without phoning customer service.

The website is an online portal to coverage for people who don’t have a health plan on the job. Its target audience is not only uninsured Americans but those who already purchase coverage individually.

Board member Arnold Salazar said Monday he expected as many as 30,000 people would have signed up by now.

“If we didn’t have these glitches, what would that number be?” Salazar said. He wondered aloud if a better system would have meant current enrollment of “6,000 or 18,000 or 30,000.”

State Medicaid officials, who also serve on the board, are happier with their 25,000 approved applicants who will be enrolled Jan. 1 under expanded Medicaid eligibility, another key feature of the Affordable Care Act.

Susan Birch, a board member who oversees Medicaid as director of state Health Care Policy and Finance, said Medicaid is working internally and with federal officials to streamline the application and get instant decisions to 90 percent of cases. Currently, many applicants are required to fill out questions on assets that are not required for Medicaid decisions.

Reaching out to account holders who have not yet enrolled is taking far longer than expected, officials said. When exchange marketers reach out to 100 people who have expressed interest, only 35 call back and just 21 of those enroll. Moving from interest to enrollment is taking longer than the 90-minute average that exchange planners budgeted for.

The exchange expects enrollments to improve when buyers can finish all application materials online, though that change may expose Colorado to more bad connections with troubled federal data hubs.

Colorado’s problems have paled in comparison to those in states using the federally run exchange, HealthCare.gov. The Obama administration has released a blizzard of statistics on the numbers of people visiting the website, opening accounts and having their income verified by the Internal Revenue Service, it has yet to say how many have successfully enrolled for health insurance.

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Information from: The Denver Post, http://www.denverpost.com

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