By Donna Smith
The way so many people in Colorado have had to put up with health-zapping “glitches” using the Connect for Health Colorado exchange should mean someone is held accountable. Going without coverage for which you signed up is more than inconvenient. For many people, going without coverage for health issues that need attention is risky and costly.
When those unnecessary risks, costs and additional health problems are caused by a failure of the Colorado exchange, it violates the public trust, it is a misuse of public funds, and it makes further modifications to our dysfunctional health care system even more challenging to accomplish.
My family is just one among thousands in Colorado that has experienced problems accessing coverage that is causing significant difficulty along with allowing health concerns to go untreated. Last year’s process was so upsetting because my health coverage was being delayed by difficulties with the confusion over the Medicaid eligibility application, the federal subsidy process and getting enrolled for coverage during the first open enrollment cycle. I was not alone. The problem got fixed eventually, but not before causing lots of difficulties (some of which I am still trying to unravel with billing issues for an early 2014 St. Joseph’s Hospital admission that was improperly billed due to delays with the processing of my new coverage through the exchange).
Now this enrollment period is causing new problems – my husband’s dental insurance for which we enrolled and received written confirmation in early December through the Connect for Health Colorado exchange is still in electronic limbo. Delta Dental has no idea who my husband is and indicated to me on my recent phone call to their customer service line that the exchange had yet to transfer enrollment information for a large number of people who told the same story to them. Delta Dental sent me back to the Connect for Health people.
Questions about the problems with dental benefits posed to the exchange board seemed to elicit the same responses as last year’s health benefits issues – the exchange board executives threw the issue back at Delta Dental and also to the people who signed up for coverage as having potentially made errors in their application process. Nothing makes me madder than having this sort of problem thrown back on those being hurt. And there are so many people like my husband with the need to be seen for a dental problem that can easily become a more serious health problem. I don’t really care whose problem it is now or was in December. I want the problem fixed. We want to be covered for dental health as we were told we’d be. And Connect for Health owes us an apology for all the problems they’re causing again.
I would also like to know why there isn’t a law in Colorado that creates accountability for those who break this sort of public confidence and abuse our public funds. Those who run the exchange are paid good salaries — much more than most Coloradans who must rely on them — and they ought to deliver what is promised. I have confirmation in writing that needs to mean something. Absent any sort of criminal remedies (though knowingly lying about the cause of this certainly ought to be a crime), the people of Colorado who have been injured need some sort of legal recourse not only to make up for the time, energy and suffering but also to send a very clear message to those who would entertain this sort of breach in the future without consequence. Instead, we get excuses.
Meanwhile, every elected official in Colorado who has read this piece is on notice as the only people who might be able to push for resolution to this issue and have yet to do so. Anyone care enough to step up? It isn’t just a small number of Coloradans with a small problem after all. If only this had happened before the election cycle.
Donna Smith is executive director of Health Care for All Colorado. A former award-winning journalist, Smith has co-chaired the Progressive Democrats of America’s national “Healthcare Not Warfare” campaign since 2007. Smith also was featured in Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary, “SiCKO,” after she and her husband both became ill, lost their home to bankruptcy and had to move in with one of their six children even though Smith had health insurance at the time. Moore took Smith to Cuba to receive free care through the country’s universal health system.
Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the views of the individual authors.