© 2024
NPR for Northern Colorado
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

What's Next For Colorado's Health Insurance Marketplace

A new website that is being touted as a consumer-friendly tool to navigate the complexities of health insurance rates is difficult to maneuver and understand.
Colorado Division of Insurance

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

  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 DOICommissioner 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."

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
Related Content
  • There was a party atmosphere at Affordable Care Act events both in California, where the law has been embraced by the state government, and in Virginia, where it has been resisted. But consumers will have very different experiences in the two states.
  • The federal health law enters a new phase now that consumers can finally kick the tires on health insurance in the marketplaces created for the uninsured and those who buy their own coverage. Window shopping is fine for now because the key deadline for coverage doesn't come until December.
  • The idea was that Medicaid would expand to include people not covered under the Affordable Care Act. But many states have chosen not to expand coverage, despite financial incentives from the federal government. That may leave millions of people without any health coverage at all.
  • Small businesses can now buy health insurance tailored for their needs on marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act. But it's not clear how much relief the exchanges will offer from high prices that are a longstanding problem for small business. And they will almost certainly require more paperwork.
  • Navigators are a key part of the health law rollout. They work at nonprofit organizations, and they're being trained to help people learn about their coverage options. In some areas that training is still going on, even though the exchanges are up and running.