Health law picked over
 at Club 20

Patty Fontneau, chief executive officer of Connect for Health Colorado, explains the Colorado online marketplace for health insurance Saturday during the fall meeting of Club 20 at Two Rivers Convention Center. “It’s kind of like Amazon,” Fontneau said. “You don’t have to tell us anything about yourself, you can just shop.”

A scant three weeks until Coloradans can log on to learn about the kinds of health insurance they must have come Jan. 1, Kerry Kaminski, Kristina Downing, and Lorie Wuebold started to look at possibilities and pitfalls.

For Kaminski, the Affordable Care Act could mean it will be easier to find employment in radiology once the Colorado Mesa University sophomore graduates.

Likewise, it could mean future employment for her as a senior majoring in political science, Downing said.

“I don’t think I expected to see” that aspect of the new law, Downing said.

She and Kaminski sat together during a discussion of the Affordable Care Act during the fall meeting of Club 20 on Saturday in Two Rivers Convention Center.

Wuebold was more concerned with whether the individual mandate to purchase health insurance and the opportunity to buy it in a state marketplace might help her deal with maintaining her insurance and that of her daughter, who no longer will be carried by her father’s insurance when she graduates from high school.

Adding her daughter to coverage could increase both her monthly costs and her deductible, so, “I might just get her an individual plan,” Wuebold said shortly, noting that she might try to get a plan tailored for her family.

Unintended consequences

The Colorado online marketplace, http://www.connectforhealthco, will go live on Oct. 1 and individuals will have to start making monthly payments by Dec. 15 to qualify for the insurance effective Jan. 1.

He’s already seen one effect of the new law, Kaminski said, noting that he worked for a business over the summer in which all employees but management had been reduced to part time so they wouldn’t qualify for health insurance benefits.

“I’ve definitely seen some unintended consequences,” Kaminski said.

The website will allow consumers plenty of opportunities to sample offerings from 150 health plans, Connect for Health Colorado CEO Patty Fontneau said.

“It’s kind of like Amazon,” the online retailer, Fontneau said. “You don’t have to tell us anything about yourself, you can just shop.”

Once a consumer has made a decision, however, buyers will have to supply insurers with personal information, such as Social Security numbers, tax information and other information.

That data will pass through the exchange, but it won’t be kept there, Fontneau said.

Connect for Health’s privacy safeguards already have passed muster with the IRS, Fontneau said.

Consumers also can go to insurance brokers, whose licenses depend on their ability to protect their customers’ private information, or to guides working with a variety of nonprofit organizations around the state.

Guides, who will help consumers through the application process, which will include tax information that will make it possible to determine whether applicants can qualify for tax credits to purchase insurance, will undergo background checks, Fontneau said.

“We already have 2,000 people on the ground to help individuals and small businesses,” Fontneau said.

Debate continues

Even as the law’s requirement that all individuals have health insurance or face a penalty approaches effectiveness, it still sparks political ire.

It already has had a beneficial effect, Bern Heath Jr. of Axis Health Systems in Durango said.

By definition the law is complex, Heath said, “It’s national health care reform” that brought with it the ability of parents to keep their children on their plans through age 26, a prohibition on denials because of pre-existing conditions and elimination of lifetime caps on how much insurance companies would have to pay.

It’s more than that, said John Kincaid, a Moffat County commissioner.

“I would posit that it’s a means to an end and that end is control,” Kincaid said. “That’s why the IRS is involved.”

When Congress returns to Washington, D.C., on Monday, Americans should expect to see legislation addressing the definition of full- and part-time employment, Jennifer Pierotti of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.

Americans should expect glitches, rate spikes and the like, Pierotti said.

“We’re making a lot of changes to the system. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Colorado is doing more than many other states and the federal government to attract interest in the online marketplace, Pierotti said, showing some of the Connect for Health Colorado television commercials depicting the happy outcome of buying insurance through the exchange.

“Of course,” Pierotti said, “Actual results may vary.”


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