It’s round two for enrollment in the state health-care exchange, and this time things are running smoother, but glitches are still popping up.
Enrollment in Connect for Health Colorado, a health-insurance exchange, opened Nov. 15, and more than 8,000 people are already enrolled. Only about 200 people had enrolled during the same period last year, according to a release from Connect for Health Colorado.
The state health exchange offers the opportunity for those who do not have health insurance through an employer to purchase coverage. It was put in place by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Locally, interest has been stronger this year compared with last year, said Kevin O’Connor, a health-coverage guide with San Juan Basin Health Department.
“Last year, there was an enormous amount of interest but a lot of hesitation,” he said.
Many residents re-enrolled this month, he said, and there are a “significant” number of new enrollees. Last year, enrollment did not pick up until December, he said. County-specific data is not yet available.
Some customers are having technical problems this year with the required financial-assistance portion of the application, said Linda Gann, Western Slope outreach manager with Connect for Health Colorado.
This year, customers must fill out only one application, while last year an application for Medicaid and one for Connect for Health Colorado was required to make sure all customers who needed assistance received it.
“The single-stream application is where we are fine-tuning and tweaking,” she said.
Any customers who start an application by Dec. 15 will receive insurance by Jan. 1 to make sure they don’t have a gap in their coverage, she said.
Open enrollment will last until Feb. 15. The open-enrollment period is about half the length of the first one, which lasted from Oct. 1 through March 31.
At the end of the enrollment last March, about 300,000 new people had signed up for health insurance or Medicaid.
As part of the health-care reforms, customers can no longer be denied for pre-existing health conditions or reach a lifetime cap on what their insurance will cover. This has made a huge difference to local customers, O’Connor said.
He recalled a man who limped into his office suffering from a hernia he had for eight years.
“He was astonished when I said go to the doctor today,” O’Connor said.
Before Obamacare rolled out, the man could not qualify for insurance and could not go back to work without medical treatment.
“I have dozens of these stories,” O’Connor said.
There were some people who did have their insurance canceled in the beginning, but a majority were offered a different plan through their insurance company, O’Connor said.
Many of these plans were canceled because they did not conform to health-care reforms.
Getting insurance is also now an obligation as a part of the reforms.
Those who did not have insurance during 2014 will face a tax penalty this April based on income. The penalty will be 1 percent of annual income per each adult who did not enroll. But everyone will receive a small break because there was a three-month grace period to enroll during 2014. These penalties will be due in April 2015.
During 2015, the tax penalty will be 2 percent of annual income per adult and 1 percent per child. These would come due in April 2016.