By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
January sign-ups for Colorado’s health exchange have been more robust than managers expected with a total of about 67,000 individuals or small business employees signed up for private health exchange through late January.
Managers for Colorado’s exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, expected January sign-ups to slow considerably after a big rush to buy health insurance in December. But about 15,000 additional Colorado customers have bought private health plans this month, managers said.
On top of these purchases, Colorado has added more than 102,000 newly qualified Medicaid clients to the state’s public health insurance program for low-income people.
Board members continued to press exchange managers for more data so they can adequately monitor what’s going well and what systems need to be improved.
“How will we measure success? We have to have metrics to measure by,” said board member Eric Grossman as he and other board members pressed managers during a Monday board meeting for much more detailed data on exchange operations and finances.
“I still find myself yearning for metrics so we can move to a monthly (oversight) role. How do we know if we’re achieving these metrics? I don’t think it’s too much of a lift,” he said. “Without metrics, it’s hard for the public to gauge success.”
Long wait times for telephone help also had frustrated customers and politicians including Gov. John Hickenlooper, who was concerned about the long holds, and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Denver, who had to wait an extended period of time for phone help when he bought insurance through Colorado’s exchange. (Click here to read: Sen. Bennet buys insurance, wants exchange improvements.)
Connect for Health CEO and Executive Director Patty Fontneau said Monday that better data will be coming next month and that wait times have improved significantly, down from averages of more than 18 minutes to as short as one to three minutes now.
Among other exchange developments:
- Connect for Health has hired a chief technology officer, Proteus Duxbury. He will start work next week. Fontneau said this year’s technology demands — including building a seamless, shared IT system with state Medicaid managers that was supposed to launch in 2013 — will require even more work than creating all of last year’s exchange IT.
- About 300 people who initially were told they did not qualify for Medicaid went ahead and bought private insurance only to learn later that they were eligible for Medicaid. Because Medicaid expansions have allowed people with higher incomes to qualify for the public health insurance program, these people learned that they will get Medicaid and they were automatically enrolled in the program. Exchange managers worked with the people who were affected by the glitch to rescind their private health insurance and move them to Medicaid. Or they were able to keep the private health coverage, but no longer qualified for tax credits to help make it more affordable.
- Connect for Health has launched a new ad campaign that focuses on testimonials from customers who have bought new health insurance. The exchange so far has spent about $6 million on advertising and plans to spend an additional $2 million to $3 million before this year’s enrollment period ends on March 31.