Northwest Colorado sees increased health insurance enrollment numbers for 2015 | CraigDailyPress.com

Northwest Colorado sees increased health insurance enrollment numbers for 2015

Moffat and Routt counties saw an increase in the number of people enrolled for health insurance through Colorado's health insurance marketplace this year over last, with significantly more Routt County residents signing up for coverage than Moffat County.

— Open enrollment for 2015 health insurance closed Sunday after an enrollment period fraught with technical glitches.

Nonetheless, numbers released Thursday showed an uptick in enrollment for both Moffat and Routt counties this year compared to last.

In Routt County, 1,624 people enrolled in private 2015 health insurance plans between Nov. 15, 2014 and Feb. 15, 2015, according to metrics available on the Connect For Health Colorado website. The number represents a 17-percent increase from the 1,352 people who enrolled during the enrollment period for 2014 plans.

Moffat County showed more modest gains, with only 210 people enrolling in private plans compared to 187 last year, an 11-percent increase.

"Routt County had a lot of enrollment. We had a lot more participation in group enrollment events, which was really helpful," said Erin Gleason, community health insurance coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. "There's a larger population in Routt County that qualifies for the tax credits, so it really gave them a lot more incentive to come and get their enrollment done through us."

Gleason named higher Medicaid enrollment, a larger number of individuals with employer-provided health insurance and a smaller population as possible reasons for the much lower numbers in Moffat County.

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More people enrolled in Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus than in private insurance in Moffat County during the three-month enrollment period, totaling 285 individuals, according to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

County-wide, Medicaid members totaled 3,539 as of Jan. 31, according to the department. That equals approximately 27 percent of Moffat County's population based on the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 population estimate of 13,103.

More than 15 percent of neighboring Routt County's population is enrolled in Medicaid, with 3,650 members out of an estimated 23,513 population in 2013.

Statewide, 220,000 Coloradans enrolled in healthcare coverage during the open enrollment period, a news release from Connect for Health said Thursday. That compares to more than 277,000 last year.

Of that total, nearly 140,000 people enrolled in private coverage, more than 76,000 enrolled in Medicaid and 3,720 in Child Health Plan Plus. Fifty-four percent of Connect for Health customers qualified for financial assistance, according to the release.

"This year we found that our largest percentage of new Medicaid enrollees were kids, who will now have access to important health and preventive services," said Sue Birch, executive director of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, in a statement.

Enrollment data from the department's website revealed that 25 percent of newly enrolled Medicaid clients during the three-month period were under the age of 18.

Though individuals qualifying for Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus can enroll in these public health programs at any time during the year, Gleason said the enrollment period raises people's awareness of them.

The VNA, which led the public outreach to get people enrolled in Northwest Colorado, boasted the second most "assists" per person in the state, Gleason said, citing information released by the Colorado Community Health Network. In other words, health coverage guides employed by the VNA helped the second-most people per guide statewide.

"It just speaks to our efficiency and the great need for this service in our community," Gleason said. "So many people did not know where to go, so they just came to us and it's great to know that we helped the community."

The next opportunity for people to purchase private health insurance coverage, barring life-changing events such as marriage, having a child or losing a job, will be for the 2016 open enrollment period from Oct. 1 to Dec. 7, 2015.

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

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