GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Federal and state officials continue to say that Oct. 1 is the roll-out date for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
But some in Colorado are worried that the online registration system will not be ready by the target date, or that even if it is, the numbers of people trying to get online to learn about insurance policies will overload the system immediately.
“I’m anticipating that the website for Colorado is going to crash on Tuesday,” said Robin Jackson, an agent for the State Farm Insurance office in Glenwood Springs, which offers health insurance and is anticipating taking part in implementation of the ACA.
She predicted that the crush of hopeful insurance customers will not abate for at least a week.
“I don’t want to try to get on that website until the following Monday,” Jackson concluded. “I figure if, by mid-October, I can go in and run numbers, I’ll be fine with that.”
The insurance policies do not need to take effect until Jan. 1 under the ACA.
Colorado is one of 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that have opted to set up their own insurance exchange systems in response to the ACA, while the federal government is setting up exchanges in the remainder of the states.
The exchange in Colorado is called Connect For Health Colorado (connectforhealthco.com), and its website has a number of notices, offers of assistance to consumers, and explanations about the Colorado health insurance exchange and its anticipated customer base of 800,000 uninsured Coloradans.
On the home page of Connect For Health Colorado, or CFH, a consumer can link to subsequent pages for individual policies or for group policies (mostly intended for businesses), as well as explanatory pages to inform people about the insurance options available on a county-by-county basis.
There also is a toll-free number (855-752-6749), at which customer service representatives are available to answer questions. One question already anticipated concerns how one goes about determining if he or she is eligible for a federal subsidy, in the form of a tax credit, to help offset the costs of insurance premiums.
Like other insurance agents in the area, Jackson has been getting calls from people anxious about how the roll-out will affect them, “although not as many as I had expected,” she noted.
Insurance Agent Scott Bolitho of the Glenwood Insurance Agency, which offers health insurance, said on Sept. 23 that he was not sure the state’s website would be ready because it did not have sufficient information about the premiums that will be charged under the ACA.
As of Sept. 27, the website contained graphs showing the potential premiums for different plans offered for three types of individuals — a “catastrophic” level policy for a 27-year-old, a bronze policy (lowest amount of coverage) for a 40-year-old, and a gold policy (higher levels of coverage) for a 40-year-old. Other age groups were not represented, which troubled Bolitho, he said, because he needed complete premium information in order to write policies for customers of different ages and other categories.
On Friday, however, Bolitho said that he had taken part in a webinar (online seminar) about the ACA that morning, and had been assured by a representative of CFH that Oct. 1 is still the anticipated roll-out date for Colorado consumers.
“We got more information about premiums and other matters,” Bolitho said about the Colorado exchange.
But, he said, in the states that have opted out of running their own insurance exchanges, and left it up to federal managers, the roll-out date has been pushed back to Nov. 1, and full-service operations for those exchanges may not be going until some time in 2014.
Bolitho said he was told in the webinar that the Group Plans aspect (mostly for small businesses) of the CFH website “is supposed to be ready to roll on Oct. 1, because you don’t have to worry about the tax credit.”
But individual insurance shoppers must have proof they do not qualify for Medicaid before they can shop on the exchange, Bolitho said, “and that takes 35 minutes” with a customer service representative. That, Bolitho continued, stretches out the registration process and could create logjam problems for consumers and the state alike.