Four points outlined at health-insurance exchange meeting

MONTROSE — Dozens of residents quizzed state officials Thursday about the possibility of a statewide health-insurance exchange as a “Colorado solution” to federal health care reform.

Joan Henneberry, director of the Health Insurance Exchange with the Colorado Health Institute, Lorez Meinhold, deputy policy director for Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Susan Birch, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, outlined the proposed exchanges to residents at a pair of public meetings at the Montrose Regional Library.

They answered questions about insurance costs, benefits and the number of health care providers in Colorado.

Meinhold said the four main points to the proposed health-exchange program are coverage, cost containment, insurance accountability, and fraud and abuse. The exchange would be created under a measure working its ways through the Colorado Legislature.

Most of the questions raised by the audience were about insurance costs for individuals, the financial costs to the state and the availability of customer service if the program is adopted.

The Colorado Health Institute estimates there are about 800,000 uninsured residents in the state, and Hickenlooper and other state officials hope the new exchange will help get them coverage.

“We have to find a solution for these people,” Henneberry told the audience.

The exchange is designed to lower the number of uninsured and provide those people with additional options so they can afford insurance.

One audience member asked if an open insurance market would drive down costs for small-business owners.

Henneberry said the exchange would lower administrative costs and should allow employers the option to cover their employees.

Henneberry added the exchange would create an open, robust marketplace that spurs competition, which would help lower premiums.

She said the entire infrastructure for the program needs to be in place by the end of 2013 if the program is to be implemented by January 2014.

“We think it’s very important for Colorado to have an insurance exchange,” Henneberry said. “We don’t want to default to the federal government. Let’s work to find a Colorado solution.”

The meeting was one of many around the state to gauge support of the exchange. A similar meeting was held Oct. 21 in Grand Junction.

More information is available about the exchange program online at http://www.colorado.gov/healthreform.


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