Website glitch fuels confusion

Medicaid applicants may have to wait months for answers

A glitch on the state Medicaid website let Coloradans submit applications without providing income information during March, resulting in a flood of questions at the county level.

A newsletter from the state acknowledged that the problem has existed for two weeks.

The national deadline to enroll in health insurance, which was Monday, March 31, drove many people to apply for Medicaid. Citizens had to have a denial from Medicaid before signing up through the state-run health care exchange.

On Wednesday, March 26, the state announced that if applicants started the process before the deadline, they would be allowed to finish the process during April.

But it may take months to sort through the Medicaid applications that were improperly approved or denied because of the computer glitch, said Linda Humphreys, the county Medicaid supervisor.

Colorado Medicaid representatives have not responded to a request for an estimate of how many applicants were impacted.

But the demand for all kinds of help with Medicaid applications locally has been high.

“In the last week, the caseload has increased quite a bit,” Humphreys said.

Recently, people from outside the county have been calling the office because they have been unable to reach anyone at the state or at their local county office.

The county Social Security Department director, Dennis Story, said staff have been doing their best to help everyone.

“In Montezuma County, when the phone rings, you pick it up,” Story said.

The local office also hired an extra Medicaid technician to help meet demand, Story said.

The Colorado Health Institute estimated that 1,268 people countywide would sign up for Medicaid by 2016. As of March 15, 1,062 new people had enrolled, or about 84 percent of the total estimated to sign up by 2016. In this respect, Montezuma County is significantly ahead of counties with a similar population.

For example Morgan, Logan, Routt and Summit have enrollment numbers that are all below 60 percent of what they were expected to achieve by 2016, according to an analysis by the Colorado Health Institute.

The institute may be revising how it estimates future Medicaid enrollment because of the relatively high numbers since Jan. 1, said Jeff Bontrager, director of research on coverage and access for the institute.

The national healthcare exchange, healthcare.gov, also experienced last minute problems and was down for repairs for about five and half hours early Monday morning, the Washington Post reported. The site serves residents of states that did not set up their own exchange.

mshinn@cortezjournal.com