GLENWOOD SPRINGS — If local frustration is any measure of how things went on Tuesday, the first day of registrations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was not as smooth as had been advertised and anticipated.
But according to the managers at Connect for Health Colorado (C4H), the Front Range-based entity in this state that is managing the rollout of the program, things went as well as could have expected.
“We were able to handle it,” said Patty Fontneau, CEO of C4H, in a press conference at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
“We had a great start,” she added, explaining that after the marketplace went live at 8 a.m. on Tuesday there were “some intermittent error messages” on the website and the software for creating health-care accounts was “suspended for a short time.”
At close to noon, C4H spokesman Ben Davis issued an alert saying the marketplace was to be open for business again as of 12:30 p.m.
Fontneau said that by 4 p.m. the C4H website had processed more than 57,000 “visitors” checking out the ACA marketplace, or exchange, with an eye toward buying insurance from one of several carriers taking part in the program. More than 1,400 “accounts” were created from those calls, enabling that many insurance shoppers to buy a policy and set it up to begin coverage on Jan. 1, 2014.
Fontneau added that the C4H Customer Service Center, which was set up primarily to answer questions over the phone, also helped out anyone who physically walked in the door.
A reporter asked how many people had done that, and Fontneau answered, “Two.”
Still, Fontneau declared, “This is the start of a six-month enrollment process. This is not the end. This is the beginning.”
When she told a reporter that C4H would not be revealing how many people actually had purchased insurance until a later date, that reporter referred to East Coast journalists being “frustrated” because the feds are not giving out that information yet, either.
Spokespersons for Garfield and Pitkin counties on Tuesday said they have not been that closely involved in the details of preparing for the rollout of the ACA, also known as Obamacare.
“Eagle County was leading the charge,” said Pitkin County public affairs official Pat Bingham.
At Garfield County, public information officer Renelle Lott said she had been away from the office for more than a week, and echoed Bingham’s assessment that Eagle County was the entity in charge.
But Eagle County’s public information officer, Kris Friel, said late Tuesday afternoon, “We are actually not directly involved.”
She said the three counties are working together, with funding from a $750,000 federal grant, to ease the rollout for residents of the three-county region.
Bingham said Pitkin County fielded no phone calls concerning the rollout of the ACA at all, but that plenty of people called in demanding to know why the Maroon Bells Road, parking area and rest rooms were off limits all of a sudden (the reason is the government shutdown; see related story.) Neither Garfield nor Eagle counties had gotten many phone calls on Tuesday about the ACA, either.
Lott said she had been in contact with both neighboring counties about the rollout, and with people at C4H, and that there was a shortage of information coming out of the state that has left regional C4H efforts in a kind of limbo.
Among the information she said the three counties are waiting for is a centralized phone number for people to call with questions.
As of Tuesday, according to all three county spokespersons, there were several sites where “health coverage guides” were at work, answering phones and fielding questions from people confused about the ACA and what it means for them.
The phone numbers released by C4H for Garfield County callers are 970-471-2240, the number for the Eagle County Health Assistance Network.
The C4H website gave two different numbers for those from Eagle County looking for information — 970-471-0672, and 970-471-3554.
The website did not list a phone number for callers from Pitkin County, Aspen or Snowmass Village.