Many of you may have seen the letter earlier this week from the Denver Chamber of Commerce announcing the formation of the Colorado Health Policy Coalition. The group — which already counts more than 100 health care provider, consumer, advocacy and business groups among its members — gives voice to many in Colorado in the federal policy conversation around unwinding the Affordable Care Act.

Its goal, according to Chamber President Kelly Brough’s letter, is to urge our representatives in Congress and the new presidential administration “to develop a comprehensive and thoughtful health care framework before taking action to repeal the nation’s current health care policy.”

The coalition spelled out its position in a letter to the governor, Colorado’s congressional delegation and the state legislature. The path to better healthcare policy is charted in a set of principles the coalition developed.

It’s a reminder of how Coloradans from varying professional and political backgrounds from all over the state have come together to find common ground and a solution that benefits the greatest number of our citizens. A similar process brought about the creation of our organization a few years ago.

In Recent News
You can read some of the news coverage of the coalition in the Denver Business Journal or The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

As we look at what’s ahead for the new year amid a lot of uncertainty brought on by discussion of repealing, delaying and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is worth a brief reflection on what’s gone before and what that may mean for our future.

Connect for Health Colorado’s path to expanding healthcare coverage dates back to 2006, when a Republican governor and Democratic legislature created the Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform, known as the “208 Commission.” That panel’s report later led to legislation supported by both political parties that created our organization.

Although we are one of a number of state-based health insurance marketplaces, we are the only one created as a public non-profit organization. We are governed by a board of directors appointed by elected officials and accountable to a committee of the state legislature. As such we are uniquely positioned to respond to changes in the health insurance marketplace as we continue our work toward our mission to increase access, affordability and choice.

Those principles have been a policy priority for many years. I was reminded this week by a blog by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP). That piece referenced a report 17 years ago reviewing efforts to expand access to healthcare in the previous 25 years.

You can find in it discussion of individual and employer mandates, high-risk pools, small-group and individual market reforms and subsidized health insurance. Sound familiar?

It’s clear that healthcare reform policy initiatives have rolled out and rolled back for decades. While many of us are uncomfortable with the uncertainty in the current debate, we can take the long view and persevere in our mission.

Since our beginning, we have successfully worked within rapidly changing state and federal regulations and will continue to rely on that agility as we move forward amid changing landscapes. Each year since we started, a measure has been introduced that would dissolve our organization and we can expect it again. Rather than worry about it, I recommend focusing on the customers we serve and the increased demand we’ve seen this Open Enrollment. The demand for access, choice and affordable health insurance is what will be an important consideration for lawmakers as they develop and review future options.

Audit Report

A report by the federal Office of the Inspector General (OIG) got a lot of media attention this week. Because the review focused on the first years of Connect for Health Colorado’s operation (2013-2014), some of the OIG findings had been called out in earlier reviews and we responded to them. You have seen changes, in deed, you have seen staff added, to improve our processes around spending controls, documenting approvals and preventing conflicts of interest. We don’t agree with all of the report findings and we will exercise our chance to provide further response. You can find more details in this report to be reviewed at Monday’s board meeting.

May you have a happy and healthy 2017,

Kevin

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

We did it! We met the very important December 15 deadline with positive energy and in my opinion, we knocked it out of the park! We’ve seen some very impressive numbers with 10,000 plan selections on Wednesday. And on Thursday we processed more than 12,000 plan selections! Thank you for your tireless efforts supporting our customers.

With the volume that we are seeing, we want to reiterate that we are committed to assisting customers with January 1 coverage who began the process by midnight December 15. If customers are delayed, they should call our Customer Service Center for assistance before finalizing their enrollment. Our established process for requesting an alternative start date can be used to facilitate this.

In Recent Meetings

Several Connect for Health Colorado staff recently attended the Colorado Health Institute Hot Issues in Health Care conference in Colorado Springs. It brought together local elected policymakers, staffers and members of Colorado’s health policy community, and was a content packed two days. What you should know is that while there is some uncertainty, many of our partners feel committed to the progress and gains in coverage Colorado has experienced over the past few years. And, as a state, we believe that all Coloradans should have access to affordable health insurance and quality care. Healthy and thriving Coloradans help strengthen our local communities. It’s important to remember this as we assess any legislation changes and opportunities for improvement.

Holiday Closures

As a reminder, the administrative offices will be closed the following days in observance of the holiday:

  • Friday, December 23
  • Monday, December 26
  • Monday, January 2

Our Customer Service Center will also be closed the following days:

  • Monday, December 26
  • Monday, January 2

I will pause this weekly communication for the next two weeks and will be back with new updates starting January 6. If you’re just catching up on our weekly news, you can find prior versions below:

With this break in our routine, I encourage you to unplug, re-energize and enjoy the holidays.

Take good care,

Kevin

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

We’re closing in on December 15, one of the most important deadlines of the year and we have a lot to be proud of. Plan selections in our first month were 23% over last year’s first month — and that was a good year.

We’re almost halfway through and every measure points to our most successful Open Enrollment ever.

That’s not to minimize the challenges we currently face in the public policy arena. There will be debates at the state and federal level on the future of exchanges and healthcare reform. As a state-based Marketplace formed to provide a “Colorado solution,” we will be keeping an eye on both levels and we take note that some of the talk in Congress now suggests turning more authority over to state governments.

This process can be expected to take time but the shape of policy changes should start to become clearer when state and federal legislative bodies begin meeting. Here are some dates you might want to be aware of:

  • Congress reconvenes Jan 3. 2017.
  • The Colorado Legislature begins work Jan. 11, 2017.
  • The president is inaugurated Jan. 20, 2017.
  • Health insurance companies in Colorado normally file their 2018 individual and small group plans and rates in May for the following year.

In the meantime, we remain committed to keeping you, our customers and our stakeholders aware of what we do know and we have made some recent updates:

  • The “Election Questions” page has been updated with communications to our Stakeholders and customers.
  • The “Election Questions” page links to a new page in the Board Policy Topics section of the website called “Election Impacts”. This page will serve as a repository for documents referencing potential impacts to the ACA and Connect for Health Colorado.
  • My email newsletters are being posted as “CEO Blogs” in the News section of our web site.

In Recent News

Health insurance companies spoke out this week through their national association, the Association of Health Plans. While not opposing repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the insurers asked for a commitment from the Trump administration and congressional leaders that the government will continue offsetting some costs for low-income people. They also want to keep in place rules that encourage people to sign up. Thursday’s New York Times included this article.

Hospital groups raised concern about repealing the Affordable Care Act, saying that hospitals stand to lose billions of dollars in a repeal. The Federation of American Hospitals on Tuesday released a report that said that the loss of coverage by undoing the ACA through a measure introduced last year would cost hospitals $165.8 billion. Read more in the Morning Consult and Modern Healthcare

Finally, I want to thank you in advance for the work ahead to help Coloradans enroll by December 15 so that they can have their financial security and health protected for all of the coming year.

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

November 14, 2016
Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

DENVER — Between Nov.1 and Nov. 13, more than 16,000 Coloradans selected health coverage for 2017 through the state health insurance Marketplace, according to new data released today by Connect for Health Colorado®.

“The number of initial sign-ups during the first two weeks of Open Enrollment are very encouraging,” said Connect for Health Colorado® CEO Kevin Patterson.  “There has been a lot of talk about the future of healthcare since the election but I want everyone to remember that the financial help to buy health insurance is still available for next year. I urge everybody to review their options and complete their enrollment before the last-minute rush.”

The pace of sign ups is running 30 percent higher than last year, Patterson said, with 1,300 to 1,600 plan selections submitted each weekday during the first days of the annual Open Enrollment Period. Enrollees submitted 16,305 plan selections through Sunday. The total was 12,496 for comparable days in 2015. The 2017 plan selections include 2,648 customers who are new to Connect for Health Colorado.

November 9, the day after the election, saw more than 1,400 plan selections, one of the busier days so far.

Whether you are renewing or enrolling for the first time, you must complete enrollment by December 15, to have coverage January 1, and avoid a gap in your coverage. Open Enrollment runs through January 31.

Key dates and deadlines for individuals and families buying private coverage

  • Open Enrollment: November 1, 2016 – January 31, 2017.
    • You cannot purchase health insurance after this period unless you have a qualifying life-change event, such as marriage, divorce, having a child, losing your employer-sponsored insurance, or moving to Colorado.
  • Last day to enroll for coverage beginning January 1, 2017, is December 15, 2016.
  • Last day to enroll for 2017 coverage (absent a life change event): January 31, 2017.

About Connect for Health Colorado
Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established in law by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and apply for tax credits to help make their insurance more affordable. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or chat from expert Customer Service Center representatives; and find in-person assistance from certified brokers and agents, community based certified Health Coverage Guides or Certified Application Counselors. In 2016, the Marketplace enrolled more than 170,000 Coloradans in private insurance and helped more than 100,000 gain access to new tax credits that made their health coverage more affordable – all while keeping fees among the lowest in the country. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com

Media Contacts

Marc Williams (Colorado Medicaid)
303-866-3144

Luke Clarke (Connect for Health Colorado)
720-496-2545

Vincent Plymell (Colorado Division of Insurance)
303.894.2261

DENVER, CO – Today, updated estimates of the uninsured population were released showing Colorado’s uninsured rate has dropped to 6.7 percent. Along with uninsured rates, the Colorado Health Access Survey includes information by insurance type and has questions about access to care.

Below are statements in response to the new survey from leaders at the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, Division of Insurance and Connect for Health Colorado.

Susan E. Birch  MBA, BSN, RN  Executive Director
Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

“Today marks another milestone in Colorado’s journey to become the healthiest state in the nation – we now have one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country, 6.7 percent. Getting everyone covered was our first priority.  Now we turn our focus to improving the health of those we serve while getting the most value for every dollar we spend.  At Colorado Medicaid we are making strategic investments that reduce cost but improve health outcomes of our clients. We’ve been successful in that access to care has remained stable throughout this enrollment of new clients.

Our average cost per client in Medicaid has declined by over 9% since Fiscal Year 2008-2009. While part this decline can be attributed to changes in case mix, it also reflects our dedication to purchasing value and reducing costs as has been demonstrated by savings achieved through the Accountable Care Collaborative.  We’re seeing clear signs that health outcomes are improving, our clients are seeking out preventative medical and dental care.

“The historic numbers released today are due to the hard work of many partners across the state.  We achieved this milestone together, from individuals using technology to enroll online, to the medical assistance sites, county and community partners, brokers and others who provided in person or phone assistance to Coloradans needing to enroll in coverage, we all had a part in reducing our uninsured rate.”

Kevin Patterson, Interim CEO
Connect for Health Colorado

“Colorado set out to find a Colorado solution to expanding health care coverage well before the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land. Now, less than two years after full implementation of the law, it’s exciting to see our state as a leader in expanding health coverage. Yet, even as we celebrate this success today, we at Connect for Health Colorado see tremendous opportunity to grow access, affordability and choice for Colorado families and small businesses.”

Marguerite Salazar, Colorado Insurance Commissioner
Colorado Division of Insurance

“At the Division of Insurance, we ensure that a healthy, competitive health insurance marketplace exists for Colorado consumers, providing them with a variety of choices.  For 2015, there were over 1,000 plans from 20 carriers in the individual and small group markets, and we’ll have similar numbers when we announce the 2016 plans later in September.

“But while our role is about maintaining a competitive market, this news is also about parents being able to keep their kids on their employer plans, it’s about small employers wanting to offer coverage to their employees, it’s about people who were shut out of the system getting health insurance. And getting more people covered means more people have access to preventive care, which is the first step in attacking rising health care costs.

“While our work is not done, CHI’s numbers show that we have made huge strides in getting more people covered.”

About the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing: The Department administers the Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus programs as well as a variety of other programs for low-income Coloradans who qualify. For more information about the department, please visit Colorado.gov/hcpf.

About Connect for Health Colorado: Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and is the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community-based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com

About the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI): The Division, part of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholder with insurance issues. Visit dora.colorado.gov/insurance for more information or call 303-894-7499 / toll free 1-800-930-3745.

Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

DENVER – Connect for Health Colorado® Board Chair Sharon O’Hara today announced two new members have been named to the Board of Directors for the health insurance Marketplace and three board members have been reappointed to four-year terms.

Marc Reece, senior director of state government affairs, Western Region, for Aetna and Jay Norris, a northern Colorado health insurance broker, were newly named to the board.

In his role, Reece oversees all government interaction for Aetna throughout the Rocky Mountain region and Texas.  Additionally, he helps lead company transparency efforts in an effort to bring members the healthcare and coverage information they need, when they need it.  Prior to joining Aetna in 2014, Reece served as the Associate Director for the Colorado Association of Health Plans (CAHP).  While representing the insurance industry at CAHP, he helped pass Connect for Health Colorado’s enabling legislation, SB11-200, and spent four years leading industry efforts to launch the state Marketplace.

Norris is an independent health insurance broker, serving the individual market in Colorado since 2002. He and his wife Louise took their brokerage – the Colorado Health Insurance Insider – online in 2003, and for more than a decade, he has worked to make the process of shopping and enrolling for health insurance as simple and efficient as possible.

Norris has been working with Connect for Health Colorado since 2013, helping clients sort through the available options and enroll in the plans that best fit their needs.

Dr. Michael Fallon and Arnold Salazar, both of whom were appointed to Connect for Health Colorado’s original board in 2011, are concluding their service.

Three board members have been reappointed to four-year terms:

  • Adela Flores-Brennan, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.
  • Steve ErkenBrack, president and chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
  • Nathan Wilkes, Founder and Principal Consultant Headstorms, Inc., an IT consulting firm.

“We’re happy to welcome these new members to our board and welcome back those who have been re-appointed,” O’Hara said. “Their collective experience is deep and wide. They bring a strong strategic perspective to Connect for Health Colorado as we grow the Marketplace and increase coverage in our state for individuals, families and small businesses. We have the benefit of fresh points of view mixing with the perspective of board members who have been with us from the beginning.

“We are deeply grateful to departing board members Mike Fallon and Arnold Salazar for their dedication to improving the health of Coloradans by expanding access to affordable coverage,” O’Hara said.  “Each has worked tirelessly toward that mission, shaping Connect for Health Colorado into one of the most successful state based marketplaces in the nation.”

The Connect for Health Colorado board has nine voting members and three ex-officio members. They are appointed by Republican and Democratic leaders in the state Legislature and by the governor.

About Connect for Health Colorado

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and is the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community-based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com

Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

“Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling has no impact on customers of Connect for Health Colorado® – or in other states like Colorado that operate their own state-based health insurance Marketplaces (exchanges).

“We are fortunate that Colorado’s legislature in 2011, on a bipartisan basis, opted to create a state-based Marketplace. The questions raised in the court case have to do with the states operating within the federal exchange and do not apply to Colorado consumers. If you receive tax credits to help lower the cost of health insurance purchased through us, there is still no impact on your coverage.

“The case was a challenge to the subsidies (tax credits) paid to residents of the 36 states within the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov.

“This decision is good news to consumers in those states as it resolves the uncertainty surrounding the support they have relied on to ensure their financial security and ability to receive healthcare.”

Kevin Patterson,
Interim CEO, Connect for Health Colorado

About Connect for Health Colorado

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and is the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community-based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com

Contact:  Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

DENVER (Thursday June 4 ) –  Denise M. O’Leary, an investor in technology companies and a member of a number of corporate and non-profit boards, joins the Connect for Health Colorado® Board of Directors following her appointment by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The governor cited Ms. O’Leary’s expertise in healthcare economics and information technology in making the appointment to a term on the board that runs until July 1, 2017.

Ms. O’Leary serves as a director with American Airlines Group, Calpine Corporation and Medtronic, in addition to her service on the boards of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, the Denver Foundation and the University of Denver.

“We’re excited to welcome Denise to our Board,” says Board Chair Sharon O’Hara. “Her knowledge of healthcare and information technology, coupled with her leadership background in the corporate and non-profit business environments, are strong assets that will serve us well in achieving our mission to increase coverage in our state for individuals, families and small businesses.”

Ms. O’Leary graduated from Stanford University with a degree in industrial engineering and from Harvard Business School with an MBA. She is married to Kent Thiry, the chief executive officer of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc.

The Connect for Health Colorado Board has nine voting members and three ex-officio members.

About Connect for Health Colorado

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and is the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community-based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors. For more information:  www.connectforhealthco.com

Contact: Luke Clarke, [email protected], 720-496-2545

DENVER (May 15, 2015) Connect for Health Colorado®  Interim CEO Kevin Patterson on Friday committed the state health insurance Marketplace to improving the customer experience for Colorado families, individuals and small businesses buying health insurance, in a meeting with reporters.

“We recognize that thousands of our customers, our Health Coverage Guides, our Brokers and our carrier partners depend on us getting the right technology in place to make it easier to enroll in and renew health insurance coverage for 2016,” said Patterson, who took over as interim chief executive officer on May 8. “Our teams are working daily with our vendors, our federal and state partners and our stakeholders on fixing those parts of our eligibility process that did not perform well in the last Open Enrollment Period to ensure a better result during our next Open Enrollment.

“More than 150,000 people have enrolled in coverage for 2015 through us but too many were tripped up by technology and had to wait on hold to reach a customer service representative to complete enrollment,” Patterson said. “We know we can do better and we will have to do better to meet our mission to increase access, affordability and choice for Coloradans buying health insurance.”

Patterson also emphasized the successes the health insurance Marketplace has achieved since opening for business Oct. 1, 2013, including:

  • Launching on time and without the technical issues of other marketplaces for the first Open Enrollment – contributing to a statewide drop in uninsured rates.
  • Enrolling more 150,000 Coloradans in coverage for 2015 – about 10 percent ahead of last year’s pace.
  • Supporting competitive pricing among the 15 health and dental insurers vying for business.
  • Providing customers decision support tools not yet available in other exchanges — a prescription look-up tool and an online provider directory.

Open Enrollment for 2016 will be from November 1, 2015, to January 31, 2016.

About Connect for Health Colorado

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  We opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and are the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com