Health insurance enrollment numbers show contrast between Moffat and Routt counties | CraigDailyPress.com

Health insurance enrollment numbers show contrast between Moffat and Routt counties

Community health insurance coordinator for Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association Erin Gleason walks a local resident through the application process during open enrollment for 2015 health insurance plans.

— The open enrollment period for health insurance is more than half over, and data released Tuesday reveals a drastic difference between Moffat and Routt counties enrollment numbers.

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has been working to help area residents sign up for health insurance by offering assistance from a health coverage guide, available by appointment or at drop-in sessions scheduled at various times and locations throughout the region.

However, the VNA was compelled to relocate the health coverage guide scheduled to be in Craig two days per week when the demand was markedly greater in Steamboat Springs.

"The enrollment numbers in Routt County are almost 10 times what they are in Moffat County at this point, so the need was much greater here," said Erin Gleason, community health insurance coordinator at the VNA.

As of Dec. 31, 2014, 1,266 Routt County residents had enrolled in medical and dental plans for 2015 through the Connect For Health Colorado health insurance marketplace. That is compared to 161 Moffat County residents, according to data released by Connect For Health.

Gleason pointed to ideological as well as circumstantial differences as possible causes.

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"A lot of people in Routt work these jobs that put them in an income bracket to qualify for benefits," Gleason explained, referring to the tax credits available to individuals and families under certain income levels. "More people in Moffat work for large employers that provide health insurance like the hospital or the mines."

Certified health insurance broker Greg Neal is based in Craig and was privy to some Moffat County residents' complaints about signing up for health insurance.

"Being on the frontlines, when you sit across the desk from these people you hear a lot of stuff, and of course the biggest complaint is they feel they're being forced to do it," Neal said. "So there's a lot of resistance, but once they realize they qualify for tax credits, the resistance is less."

Neal also said cost was an issue.

"There was a huge increase" in price, Neal said, and recounted some of his clients telling him, "'I can't afford this, I'm going to cancel it if we can't fix it.' It was that blunt and straight up."

By reviewing other plans, Neal said he was able to help nearly all of his clients find plans at comparable or even lower prices, as long as they switched plans.

Technical difficulties caused many other frustrations, from issues on the Connect For Health website to hang-ups with the financial application required to apply for Medicaid or tax credits, according to Gleason.

"Connect For Health totally redesigned the application this year and merged it with the application for Medicaid and of course with new technological capabilities, there's always some problems," Gleason said.

Across the state, more than 151,000 Coloradans enrolled or renewed health insurance plans between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31, 2014, according to a news release from Connect For Health Colorado.

Nearly 114,000 of those enrollments were for private coverage, of which more than 20,000 were new to the marketplace.

The remaining enrollments included almost 36,000 enrollees in Medicaid and more than 1,500 in Child Health Plan Plus.

The next deadline pending in the enrollment process is Thursday for those who want coverage starting Feb. 1. With five weeks left to enroll before the enrollment period ends Feb. 15, Neal encouraged people to understand their options.

"The window's going to close here pretty soon. Tax credits have been substantial," Neal said. "There's a lot of money on the table, so you want to investigate to see if you qualify."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.

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