By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
A bill supporting a new comprehensive state audit of Colorado’s health exchange sailed through a House committee with unanimous support on Tuesday and heads next to the full House.
The measure already passed the Senate and is likely to land soon on Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk. The governor’s deputy chief of staff on Monday supported a separate “end-to-end” evaluation of the exchange and glitches with the “Shared Eligibility System” that Colorado’s Medicaid managers and their IT contractors supervised. State and exchange officials are seeking an outside firm to conduct that audit and want it completed within 60 days, if possible.
Increased scrutiny on Colorado’s health exchange comes as federal health officials on Tuesday released state-by-state data for sign-ups. While consultants and communications staff for Connect for Health Colorado continue to portray Colorado’s exchange as one of the best in the country, in fact, Colorado sits in the middle of the pack at No. 24 out of 51 (including the District of Columbia). (Click here to see how all the states stack up.)
Unlike last year, when IT systems for the federal government flopped and state-run exchanges performed better, this year, states with federally-run exchanges generally outperformed states with their own exchanges. The state with the most sign-ups in the nation was Florida, which edged out California and New York, two states that run their own exchanges. Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania — all of which used the federal exchange — also were among the top performers this year.
As of the end of open enrollment in mid-February, Colorado had about 140,000 sign-ups for private insurance.
Some less populous states like Alabama, Louisiana and Utah garnered more customers than Colorado did this year.
Altogether, 11.7 million people signed up for private insurance across the country through both state and federal exchanges.
People who live in states with federally-run exchanges will have another chance to sign up for private insurance if they get dinged with tax penalties for failing to buy insurance.
That will not be the case in Colorado. Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar on Tuesday said that Colorado will not allow a special enrollment period for 2015.
“After considering all the factors and consulting with Connect for Health Colorado, the Division determined that the negatives of starting up another enrollment period outweighed the positives,” Salazar said in a press release.
“Open enrollment lasted for three months and everyone – Connect for Health Colorado, the carriers, brokers and health coverage guides – was on-alert.”
She said cost was one of the big factors. Allowing special enrollments could cost the exchange as much as $100,000, Salazar said. In addition, health insurance carriers and health coverage guides would also face additional costs if Colorado allowed special enrollments.
People who experience “life-change events,” such as a move, a new job or a new baby, can change or add insurance policies throughout the year.
As for a new state audit, Senate Bill 15-019 passed in minutes with a 13-to-0 vote in the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee.
Last year, the exchange’s former CEO hired a private attorney to help her fight a similar measure. This year, the exchange’s interim CEO and an increasingly frustrated board are supporting a comprehensive audit.
The measure emerged from the Legislature’s Audit Committee after the release of a scathing audit in December. Rep. Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs, told colleagues Tuesday that Colorado needs better knowledge of how the state exchange is functioning and that the bill is not a referendum of the Affordable Care Act.
“At its core, this bill is about transparency,” Nordberg said