State rolls out health-exchange plans
Southwest Memorial CEO says plan won’t fix system overnight
Starting next week, some 800,000 uninsured Coloradoans, including nearly 1 in 4 Montezuma County residents, can shop and compare 150 health plans.
A new health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado is scheduled to open for business on Tuesday, Oct. 1, for individuals, families and small employers across Colorado. A one-stop online marketplace, the site allows residents to purchase health insurance as the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, is unveiled.
“Individual families and small businesses will now have access to the same tax credits the big guys have had for over 60 years,” said Linda Gann. “I think it’s important for people, especially on the Western Slope, to understand this is a Colorado solution.”
A Connect for Health Colorado outreach coordinator, Gann said the greatest misconception is that the state’s health insurance marketplace, or exchange, is a government plan. She said private insurance companies, not the federal or state government, would offer all of the available plans.
“Health insurance is complicated,” she said. “It’s always been complicated.”
To help area residents better understand the issues and facts, Gann spoke Wednesday at the Cortez Chamber of Commerce. She said the state’s single-stream online application allows customers to shop from a number of affordable insurance programs. Open enrollment for coverage, which starts Jan. 1, 2014, is held from Oct. 1 through Dec. 15.
During her slide presentation, Gann revealed the national health expenditure per person was $147 in 1960. By 2012, the health cost per individual had more than tripled, ballooning to more than $8,400.
To put the inflation in better perspective, Gann said if the cost of commodities had gone up at the same rate as health care since 1945, then the price tag for a dozen eggs would now be $55, a gallon of milk would be $40 and a dozen oranges would cost $134.
Southwest Memorial Hospital CEO Ken Helwig said the nation’s health system has fallen into disarray over the last 60 years, and the Affordable Care Act will not solve all of the issues overnight. A proponent of the Affordable Care Act, he said it could require a minimum of 12 months, even up to two or maybe three years, before we see a level playing field.
“We have huge inefficiencies right now,” Helwig said. “To unravel that is going to take some time.”
“Ultimately we will get to a point where health care is at an affordable level, cost are controlled and we eliminate a lot of the waste and inefficiency that’s out there,” he said.
Tim Bates, a Mancos resident who works for Montezuma County, said he remained unsold on the idea that the government is mandating that he and his family obtain health insurance. He said it didn’t appear his options were going to be that affordable. He’s contemplating taking the tax penalty instead of buying health insurance coverage for his wife and child.
“The penalty is only $95, and if my wife or daughter does get injured, they can still go to the emergency room,” he said.
Bates admitted that his skepticism could partially be a result of the vast misinformation that’s been spread by various opponents of the Affordable Care Act, but after attending’s Wednesday’s informational session, he now plans to take a closer look at all of the options available.
“How many pages are in that bill?” he questioned. “There are a lot of unknown questions out there, so today’s meeting was beneficial. I mean, we’re talking about our health, and our pocket books.”
Affordable health insurance in Colorado didn’t result because of efforts by President Barack Obama, Gann said. Instead, she said it started in 2006 when former Governor Bill Owens established a Colorado Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform. The recommendations that resulted, two years before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, included requiring all legal residents of Colorado to have minimum insurance coverage as a mandate through the income tax system.
“Doesn’t that sound familiar?” she questioned.
When asked about the recent passage of the House of Representatives budget, which defunds the Affordable Care Act, Gann said history has shown than an unfunded federal mandate has not been kind to the national deficit.
“It’s pointless to answer a what if question,” she said. “Right now, we have a viable product to open on the market place starting next Tuesday, and we will continue to follow the law to provide uninsured Coloradoans with access to health insurance.”
Connect for Health Colorado includes a customer support network of health coverage guides and licensed brokers to help Coloradans find the best health plan for their needs. Connect for Health Colorado is also the only place where Coloradans can find out if they are eligible for new federal financial assistance, based on income, and use the benefits right away.
To learn more, compare plans and options side-by-side, shop and enroll in a health-care plan, visit www.connectforhealthco.com.