Online marketplace on the road for customers

Myung Oak Kim, left, with Connect for Health Colorado, works Thursday with George Hurd of Grand Junction to find health care information for his wife in a Health Exchange recreational vehicle parked on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction.

George Hurd knocked on the door of the RV emblazoned with the Connect for Health Colorado logo, which was parked Thursday on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction.

Inside, Myung Oak Kim, director of communications and outreach for Connect for Health Colorado, greeted Hurd, asking him first whether he might qualify for Medicare.

Indeed he does, Hurd said, but he was looking into coverage for his wife, who doesn’t qualify tor Medicare.

Then, said Oak Kim, settling in behind a computer screen with Hurd, “I can show you the plans your wife might be eligible for, and I can give you an idea of whether she may qualify for financial assistance.”

It’s a litany that Oak Kim has repeated for a week as she and other staffers from the online insurance marketplace toured the state in the recreational vehicle, meeting with prospective customers for the marketplace,

The tour has traveled from the eastern plains to Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Breckenridge, Durango, Montrose and Glenwood Springs.

At each stop, Oak Kim and other Connect for Health staff have worked with consumers to help them through the process of learning about benefits and evaluating offerings.

On Thursday, Connect for Health Guides met with consumers at Main Street Bagels, 559 Main St.

Guides, as they’re called, can help consumers navigate their way through the online process, but, unlike qualified brokers, they can’t recommend to a consumer which plan to take.

They can, and do, however, recommend that consumers seek out brokers who can give them professional advice.

Likewise, said Jeff Emerson, an account executive with Grand Junction-based Rocky Mountain Health Plans, consumers can meet with representatives or work with brokers.

Ultimately, however, consumers hoping to take advantage of tax benefits have to sign up via

Qualifying consumers can employ what are known as advance premium tax credits to pay monthly premiums. They also can opt to pay the premiums with no help and claim the credits on their income taxes.

Time, however, is wasting.

Enrollment is now in full swing, Oak Kim said, with 1,000 people a day signing up for coverage.

Hurd said he sought help because “The law says she has to be covered.”

He said he and his wife also are facing the prospect of a sizable fine should they not obtain coverage.

Hurd and others are looking at a time crunch, however.

The Affordable Care Act requires individuals to have coverage by Jan. 1, and to comply, individuals must sign up — and pay — for coverage by Jan. 10.

The actual deadline, Oak Kim said, is Dec. 23, but consumers who sign up for coverage but don’t pay until Jan. 10 would have to pay out of pocket for any services they receive from 
Jan. 1 to Jan. 10, Oak Kim said.

Those consumers would then have to submit claims to their insurers for coverage of those services.


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