Colorado’s health exchange fixes early problem |

Colorado’s health exchange fixes early problem

Sharon Sullivan

Connect for Health Colorado — the state-run marketplace for implementing the Affordable Care Act — has fixed a problem that had left clients unable to complete the enrollment process last month.

Some individuals who had created accounts in early October were not seeing expected tax credits, although it appeared they were eligible. The problem stemmed from a computer “lock-up” of accounts statewide, said Jackie Sievers, Hilltop’s director of community programs.

The problem has been remedied; accounts are unlocked; and “several satisfied, happy customers (have found they qualify for) substantial advanced tax credit premiums,” Sievers said.

“The process is greatly improved since Oct. 1,” health access manager Rhonda Lofing said.

Sue Kadnuck of Glade Park is one of the satisfied clients.

“It took me 52 minutes to set up my account, pick the insurance and get everything submitted,” the 59-year-old Kadnuck said.

She said she’ll be saving $250 from what she was paying for COBRA after retiring from her human resources job in the Denver area in March.

If the Affordable Care Act had not passed, she said she would not have been able to afford to retire.

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that 20 percent of people 50-64 were uninsured (up from 15 percent in 2005) and that 20-29 percent of people in that age group were denied coverage in 2008.

“People need to realize there are people who know how to (navigate the process) and will help you,” Kadnuck said. “They’ll be pleasantly surprised at all of their options and how the premiums will work out.”

She said the coverage and cost of her plan was better than what she expected.

Individuals with household incomes less than four times (400 percent) the federal poverty level will qualify for tax credits designed to lower insurance premiums to affordable rates.

For example, a family of two earning up to $62,040, or 400 percent of federal poverty level, would qualify for the subsidies.

Hilltop is the certified assistant for Connect for Health Colorado, where people can shop and compare insurance plans and enroll in the federal health insurance program online. Certified and trained “guides” or “navigators” help people through the process.

In the first three weeks of October, the CFH Colorado office helped 269 clients, Sievers said.

“Of those, 60 percent wanted information and to know their options,” she said.

Of the remaining 40 percent, half were eligible for Medicaid coverage (as part of the ACA, Medicaid expanded to include more people), and the other half are going through the Connect for Health process for purchasing health insurance, she said.

As of two weeks ago, 63 Grand Valley residents completed applications and are now insured.

Several clients have been couples where one person is retired and qualifies for Medicare (the federal health insurance program for people 65 and older) while the spouse does not qualify, thus, is uninsured, Sievers said. Other customers have included those who are self-employed; those who previously had private plans that were discontinued, and people who were unable to get insurance because they had pre-existing medical problems.

Kadnuck said it’s a shame that the federal program has received so much negative publicity because it’s a “great opportunity” of which people should take advantage.

“Anyone who has worked with a computer knows how difficult it can be to set up a program,” she said. “We’re lucky that our governor and legislators took the time to get our own (Colorado) system up and running.”

People who attempt to shop and sign up for insurance at home, after completing the PEAK Medicaid denial process, and find that tax credits do not appear — it could be that their account is locked up, Lofing said. That potential problem can now be quickly resolved by calling customer service at 855-752-6749, she said.

Or, “if they come to see us, we’ll take care of that for them.”

For insurance coverage starting Jan. 1, the application and enrollment process, plus payment of the first month’s premium must be completed by Dec. 23. To have coverage starting Feb. 1, the enrollment process must be completed sometime between Dec. 24 and Jan. 15.

Hilltop’s Health Access Connect for Health Colorado office is located at 602 Bookcliff Ave. To reach a guide, call 970-244-0850. Drop-ins are welcome.

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