Coloradans weigh in on health insurance exchange

When enrolling in a health insurance plan, Coloradans want to talk to a trustworthy person face to face, pick a plan that is relevant to their lifestyle, and see clear explanations of all costs associated with the health plan, according to a survey of state residents released Monday.

The Colorado Public Interest Research Group Foundation, or CoPIRG, surveyed 663 Coloradans at 53 community forums in 27 Colorado towns and cities last October and November to find out what Coloradans expect out of the new Colorado Health Benefit Exchange. Senate Bill 200, signed last year by Gov. John Hickenlooper, created the exchange in anticipation of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that will go into effect in 2014. Beginning that year, U.S. citizens who do not get health insurance through work will be able to get insurance through a health care exchange marketplace that will offer competitive private and public insurance options.

Colorado’s exchange is taking shape with help from the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange Board. On Monday, CoPIRG and partners The Colorado Center on Law and Policy and The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative will present findings to the board gathered from last fall’s forums. Twenty of those forum participants attended one of three forums in Fruita and Grand Junction. Another 19 people attended a forum in Montrose.

CoPIRG Outreach Organizer Keelin Kelly said some trends emerged at forums in all areas of the state. Most forum attendees said they would prefer to speak to someone in person if they need help navigating the exchange’s website rather than call a 1-800 number, Keelin said, and people from all parts of the state said they wanted that help from local people who are knowledgeable about the exchange. Keelin said many forum participants also said they want insurance companies to play a limited role in creating the exchange.

While some forum attendees in other parts of the state criticized their insurance carriers, Keelin said one thing that stood out about the Mesa County forums is that the majority of people who attended forums here said they like their coverage, especially from Rocky Mountain Health Plans, and don’t want to lose that coverage.

“People in other parts of Colorado are interested in Rocky Mountain Health Plans playing a role in the exchange. One role the exchange can play is making insurers (available) statewide,” Keelin said.

Keelin said CoPIRG hosted the forums to gain insight into how consumers can benefit from the exchange. The forums drew community members as well as representatives from local agencies, such as Tami Roberts, director of outreach services for Mesa County Community Services. Roberts said Hilltop, Community Services and the Mesa County Department of Human Services will work together to help people understand the new health benefit exchange and have computer stations where people can view the site.

“As we put our infrastructure and employees in place, we will look at information from the focus groups about what people’s priorities are,” Roberts said.


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