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Health Exchange Officials Pushing For Change As Deadline Looms

Photo by Kirk Siegler
ICU Dr. Ivor Douglas gives Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius a tour at Denver Health in 2011.

The board of Colorado’s health exchange is pushing for an overhaul to speed up lengthy Medicaid and insurance applications.

Consumers trying to enroll in health plans via Connect for Health Colorado must first fill out a complex Medicaid application – then must wait to be approved or denied before they can move on to the next step. That process can take up to 45 days.

If Medicaid takes the full legal 45-day limit to give a response, consumers will miss the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up to have coverage start or continue Jan. 1. The Denver Post reports that the board, citing that looming deadline, is urging officials to streamline the process.

Exchange officials and consumer advocates think that complicated application is partly to blame for the low number of enrollments in the state. In the six weeks the exchange has been open, only about 3,400 Coloradans have signed up for coverage.

The state Division of Insurance announced Monday that it will hold four public hearings around the state for consumers whose policies have been canceled as a result of the Affordable Care Act. More than 250,000 policies in the individual and small group markets have been canceled in Colorado.

DOI spokesman Vince Plymell says one reason the state has seen so many cancellations is that insurers must notify affected customers within a certain time frame. He thinks the tide could be slowing.

"Companies who are remaining in the market, if they’re terminating someone’s plan, have to give that person 90 days notice; [while] companies exiting the market have to provide at least 180 days notice," Plymell> says. "I’m thinking that’s why we’re seeing them about this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few stragglers here in the next couple of months, but I think we've seen the bulk of these."

Plymell says some of the terminated policies didn't meet the minimum requirements set by the new health care law.

The Division of Insurance hasn't yet announced when or where the public meetings will be held.

As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.
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