The percentage of uninsured people locally has fallen steeply in the last year since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in 2013.
In La Plata County, the percentage of uninsured residents fell from 19 percent to 8 percent. Montezuma County saw a similar trend with the percentage of uninsured falling from 23 percent to 11 percent, according to Enroll America, a nationwide nonprofit.
Statewide Connect for Health Colorado, a health-care exchange, is looking to exceed last year’s enrollment of about 150,000 residents, said Linda Gann, a spokeswoman for the exchange. This is necessary for the exchange to become self-supporting next year. The exchange has until Feb. 15 to recruit new enrollees, which is about half the time it had last year.
However, attracting those who remain uninsured may be tough, according to a report from the Colorado Health Institute released in October.
It found that more than 80 percent of those without insurance for three years in a row considered health insurance to be too expensive.
The exchange allows those who do not have insurance provided by an employer to purchase it with the help of a tax credit, if they qualify.
In the last year, about 87,000 of the 150,000 qualified for tax credits. These tax credits are disbursed monthly by the IRS to offset the cost of insurance directly and go directly to the insurance company providing the plan.
Cost of insurance also is the No. 1 question for those who come to the San Juan Basin Health Department, said Kevin O’Connor, a local health-coverage guide.
“People come in very nervous,” he said.
There is good news for those nervous about rates. In La Plata County, rates fell from about $322 to about $249 for the cheapest silver plan. Silver plans will cover 70 percent of average health expenses, according to the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. The premiums for comparable plans went up in all of the surrounding counties.
Statewide, the second-most common reason for being uninsured was unexpectedly losing coverage. The third was a personal belief that health insurance isn’t necessary.
Those who lose their insurance through their employer can sign up through Connect for Health Colorado outside of open enrollment.
The percentage of those who say they don’t need health insurance doubled from 11.1 percent in 2009 to 24.9 percent in 2013.
To reach this group, largely characterized as the “young and invincible,” Gann said the state exchange is trying to reach them where they are apt to go. For example, they are doing outreach in movie theaters.
However, the spread across different age groups is healthy in the exchange. About 38 percent of those enrolled are younger than 34, she said.
For those who enrolled in 2014, they may be auto-renewed if they do not act before Dec. 15. However, there are those who will receive letters if the exchange could not verify their income. These people will be asked to reapply to receive a tax credit.
To receive health insurance by Jan. 1, people must apply before Dec. 15.