By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon
As the final deadline to buy health insurance for 2014 approaches, Colorado’s exchange and Medicaid officials released new data showing nearly 85,000 people have bought private health insurance while nearly 136,000 have qualified for Medicaid since Oct. 1.
People who buy insurance by March 15 will get coverage starting on April 1. Others have until March 31 to buy coverage before they could face tax penalties for failing to have it.
After April 1, people no longer will be able to buy insurance until the next open-enrollment period for 2015. The only exception will be people who have major changes in their lives such as losing a job.
Patty Fontneau, CEO of Connect for Health Colorado, said exchange officials are working hard this month to let people know that now is the last chance to buy.
“We are stepping up outreach efforts to help as many Coloradans as possible access coverage and tax credits in the final four weeks of open enrollment,” Fontneau said in a press release.
Of 84,881 people who bought insurance through Colorado’s exchange, about 56 percent have so far qualified for federal subsidies to make insurance more affordable. Those who did get subsidies qualified for an average of $275 per month, Fontneau said.
Exchange managers have a long way to go this month to meet their mid-level enrollment projection of about 133,000 people by the end of March.
Young people continue to sign up in lower numbers than older adults. So far, 23 percent of those buying private insurance are ages 18 to 34 while 30 percent are ages 50 to 64. Young people generally are healthier and in order for health reform to succeed, plenty of young healthy people need to sign up to help subsidize older people who often have more health problems.
Medicaid, the public health program for low-income people and the disabled, continues to grow at a fast clip in Colorado.
“We are pleased with our continued success at enrolling uninsured Coloradans into coverage,” said Susan Birch, who oversees Medicaid in Colorado.