277,000 Coloradans now under health plan coverage | CraigDailyPress.com

277,000 Coloradans now under health plan coverage

Next open enrollment for insurance not until Nov. 15

More than 277,000 people within Colorado have enrolled in insurance plans between Oct. 1, 2013 and March 31. The state and national deadline to enroll for coverage was Monday, with the next open enrollment period starting in November.
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The March 31 deadline to enroll in a health insurance plan brought the total amount of newly covered Colorado residents to more than 277,000, according to data released Tuesday from marketplace Connect for Health Colorado.

The open enrollment period now is officially over for the state and the nation, with about 7.1 million Americans participating in the Affordable Care Act. Within Colorado, 118,628 people now are covered under commercial insurance, with 158,521 enrolled in Medicaid.

This is a jump of about 26,000 people in the state who registered in the past two weeks, with the possibility of more to come as applications continue to be processed for those who applied before the deadline.

The end of open enrollment means an individual will be unable to obtain commercial coverage until Nov. 15, the exception being a “qualifying life event.” Under this rule, new customers would be able to shop for a new plan for the following reasons:

• Loss of minimum essential coverage

• Coverage through an employer is determined to be unaffordable

• Newly established citizenship

• Change in incarceration status

• Change of residence

• A demonstration that a current health plan has violated a provision of its contract

• Loss of eligibility for an exemption to purchase health coverage

Those currently enrolled can update their plans based on the age or death of any dependents, or due to divorce, annulment or separation.

Current enrollees also would be allowed to shop for a new plan in the case of a change of residence, a marriage or civil union, a birth or adoption, a change in eligibility for tax credits involved, loss of eligibility for a hardship exemption or any event that leads to improper enrollment.

Small businesses seeking insurance for employees are able to enroll year-round for coverage, as are those eligible for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus. Information is available at http://www.coloradopeak.force.com.

Monday saw the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s offices fielding questions about enrollment along with other health organizations across the country.

Numbers are not yet available for the breakdown of counties in the state, but the most recent statistics indicated about 2,100 Moffat and Routt county residents had enrolled in either Connect for Health or Medicaid between Oct. 1 and March 8.

The difficulty the region has seen is that due to a limited number of insurance providers and carriers — Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Rocky Mountain Health Plans — the idea of “affordable” health care is affected heavily by plans that include sizable deductibles and premiums.

Erin Gleason, the VNA’s community and small business health insurance coordinator, has heard from both qualifying customers who have found the system to be beneficial to their needs and others who would rather take their chances completely uninsured, thus opening themselves up to tax penalties that could be cheaper to pay than for the insurance itself.

Such is the risk of insurance in the first place as something that may never be used at all, depending on the people it covers, Gleason said.

“Hopefully, come November in the new open enrollment period, they’ll be able to find something that is affordable for them instead of paying a bigger penalty that’ll come next year,” Gleason said. “And, hopefully, our rates will go down by then to make it more affordable for all of us.”

At this time, there is no indication of significant insurance rate changes for Northwest Colorado, but Gleason said she anticipates information from the Colorado Division of Insurance later this month addressing the issue.

“We should be hearing soon,” she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

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