Mon October 28, 2013

What's Next For Colorado's Health Insurance Marketplace

The state’s online health insurance marketplace launched nearly one month ago on Oct. 1. Like other states, Colorado experienced glitches -- although its first days were arguably far smoother than for the troubled federal exchange

Erin O'Toole interviews Division of Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar for Morning Edition.

  As of the last reporting period, 226 Coloradans have signed up using Connect For Health Colorado, but that number is expected to grow as the Jan. 1 deadline for coverage gets closer.

The state’s Division of Insurance has played a key role in setting up the exchange, ensuring that the plans offered meet federal requirements.

"Our job was to certify all the plans that were going to be sold inside the exchange -- so that work has been going on for many months," says DOI Commissioner Marguerite Salazar. "We had to have that ready by early August so the exchange could put them in, load them up, so they’d actually have something to sell when October first came around."

Salazar says with so many plans being offered by insurance carriers, that wasn’t an easy task. And the prospect of choosing a plan among several hundred could be daunting for consumers, who are likely used to having limited options from their employers.

"Because 252 plans is a lot – but as you go through the process of enrolling, as you start to answer questions, it starts to narrow down what plans are really good for you," Salazar says. "In the end, you’re not having to choose between 252 plans, but really just a handful that meet your needs, based on what you say you want, the amount of money you’re able to spend, the kind of deductible you want to have."

"In the end you're not having to choose between 252 plans, but really just a handful that meet your needs."

Colorado is one of just over a dozen states that chose to create its own exchange, and Salazar notes there was bipartisan support behind the effort.

"Colorado was ahead in saying we want to decide our own destiny for our citizens," she says. "Colorado has been able to make so many more decisions, and have millions of dollars more [than other states] in resources with which to set the plan up. Having bipartisan support, it really didn’t matter whether things were changing at the federal level with the Supreme Court decision, or even with the election. Colorado would have been able to continue with their state plan."

Salazar says now that the exchange is up and running, the state Division of Insurance will shift their focus to other challenges – like what happens when thousands of Coloradans have insurance for the first time.

"Once people buy their insurance they’re going to have a lot of questions about how it works," says Salazar. "We’re gearing up [for] that. With so many new customers for the insurance companies, that means the chance of having complaints is also going to go up. We’re looking at the spring as a period where we’ve got to gear up for the new questions that come up once people start using their insurance.  We’re working… to make sure the consumers’ needs are met and that they’re getting what they paid for."