Colorado health insurance marketplace nearly ready for Oct. 1

QUICKREAD

Who will qualify?

Tax credits to help pay premiums available for:

■ Individuals earning between $15,856 and $45,960.

■ Couples earning between $21,404 to $62,040

■ Families of four earning between $32,499 and $94,200

Source: Connect for Health Colorado



Colorado may be leading other states as it readies for Oct. 1, the first day individuals and small businesses can enroll in new health plans designed to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act.

As one of 17 states to create its own health care insurance marketplace, Colorado is nearly ready for launch, though several issues remain, including increased premiums for some consumers and an online software program that does not allow communication between Colorado’s exchange and the state Medicaid system.

More than 500 group and individual plans offered by 18 different carriers won final approval from the Colorado Division of Insurance, only some of which will be in the exchange, division spokesman Vincent Plymell announced late last week.

For individuals, premiums approved by the division on average will range between $135 and $355 a month for catastrophic coverage, and between $311 and $705 a month for platinum coverage. A health plan is considered to be platinum when it covers 90 percent of the costs.

More than 230 of the approved plans will be available for side-by-side comparison via Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s online health insurance marketplace that is also known as an “exchange” under the Affordable Care Act.

Uninsured Coloradans, those who buy insurance on their own, or don’t have access to affordable coverage through their employer can use the exchange to obtain coverage from competing, privately owned health insurance carriers, Connect for Health Colorado spokeswoman Linda Gann told a gathering of about 100 people last week at an informational event sponsored by Club 20.

When they visit the Connect for Health website, shoppers will be able to use a price calculator to see if they qualify for subsidies and also view side-by-side comparisons of qualified health plans, Gann said.

“There will be 800,000 uninsured Coloradans, based on the 2010 census,” she said. “The estimate is that at least 500,000 of them will qualify for some level of that tax credit.”

Software problems threaten a smooth opening day in October. Whether the technology will work on day one remains an open question, Gann said.

“What’s happening is the software that (Medicaid) uses and the software that we’re trying to use – it’s not working yet,” Gann said.

Another concern is that some workers with access to affordable coverage through their employer will have to pay premium costs for family members under their employer’s plan for dependent coverage, even if the employer pays nothing towards those premiums.

“Personally, the employee feels it’s not affordable to them, and so they say, ‘well, I want to go to the marketplace, but the children and the spouse will not qualify for tax credits,’” Connect for Health Colorado health plan manager Stephanie Eng told the group.

One solution is for employers to stop offering dependent coverage unless they intend to pay all or part of the premiums for the dependents, said Terry Toner, and independent insurance agent with Mountain West Insurance & Financial Services.

In that situation, dependents would be allowed to use Connect for Health to secure more affordable coverage, Toner said.


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