To Our Valued Stakeholders, 

The debate around healthcare reform is giving us more opportunities to tell our story and this week was no exception. We had a productive conversation with Congressman Mike Coffman on Tuesday in a meeting with some of our leadership team. Mr. Coffman, who represents Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District, shared his principles on health care reform in a press release on Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 1, will be the final day of the special enrollment period extended to anyone whose 2016 health plan was not available this year. We’ve seen steady increases in 2017 plan selections this month and they will number more than 180,000 by the time we close out the period. Enrollments will now be limited to those with qualifying life change events, such as the loss of employer-sponsored coverage, a marriage, a move to Colorado, the birth or adoption of a child and so on, explained here on our site.

Legislative Update 

The governor’s office on Thursday unveiled a healthcare policy package that includes providing premium subsidies to Coloradans whose income is just above eligibility for the Advance Premium Tax Credits — between 400 percent and 500 percent of federal poverty level. Bills spelling out details of the policy initiative are expected to be introduced soon, though some measures may be on the agenda for next year. The Denver Business Journal reported on the proposals today.

We will be meeting the Colorado Health Insurance Exchange Oversight Committee on Friday as part of the panel’s regular review of our activity. You can find information on the committee and its role here.

In Recent News 

I am glad for the help getting our message out to many in Western Colorado provided by The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction, who published my guest opinion piece on Sunday

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders, 

We received guidance this week from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with proposed rules that would govern sales for next year (plan year 2018). We are working on our response to the proposals. The most noteworthy for our operations is the proposal to cut in half the open enrollment period and run it from Nov. 1, 2017, to Dec. 15, 2017. December 15 has consistently been our highest volume day in previous open enrollments. That volume could be expected to increase if it were the final day of the period. 

The proposed rules also speak to regulations around special enrollment periods, flexibility in plan design, and how carriers would treat renewing members who owe past-due premiums. 

The comment period runs through March 7 and final rules will be released at some point after that.

Legislative Update 

The Legislature has named new members of the Colorado Health Insurance Exchange Oversight Committee. New to the committee are Representatives Joann Ginal, who represents part of Fort Collins, Chris Kennedy, who represents part of Jefferson County, and Susan Lontine who represents part of Denver. You can find information on the committee and its role on our site, here.

In Recent News 

I was pleased to see The Denver Post took a position endorsing our continued operation in an editorial Sunday. It was written in response to SB 3 that calls for our repeal. The next hearing on the bill is yet to be scheduled.

Take care,

Kevin

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

We gained a lot of positive attention around the state and around the country Monday when we reported the record results of our fourth Open Enrollment period, with more than 175,000 plan selections and 12 percent ahead of last year’s mark. This account in The Denver Post was typical of what we saw in Colorado news outlets.

Legislative Update 

Tuesday’s state Senate Finance Committee debate also brought a lot of attention to our work and although the bill that would repeal our founding legislation did pass on a party line vote (3-2), there was a lot more praise for the accomplishments we have achieved over the last five years than criticism. 

The testimony that followed from about 48 individuals was predominantly in support of Connect for Health Colorado and against the bill. There were three mentions of our award winning Quick Cost and Plan Finder Tool. It is important to remember that we are very early in the process and there are still several steps ahead where the legislation can be modified or killed. 

In Recent News 

The state Division of Insurance and the Colorado Attorney General’s office on Thursday approved the acquisition of Rocky Mountain Health Plans by UnitedHealthcare. The deal will create a non-profit foundation funded by the $36.5 million sale, according to the Attorney General.

Early today the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Georgia Congressman Tom Price for secretary of Health and Human Services. Many expect that approval to trigger more movement in the policy debate on healthcare reform at the federal level. You can read more in the New York Times.

Take care,

Kevin

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

Today marks the end of our fourth and by far most successful Open Enrollment period. The number of plan selections ran 12% ahead of last year’s pace and the volume of last-minute customers Monday and Tuesday led us to extend sign-ups for three days for those who started the process before Tuesday’s deadline.

I share this information with extreme gratitude to our dedicated staff, our Assistance Network, our Broker partners, our health insurance company partners and the many other supportive stakeholders who helped us move forward with our shared mission no matter the headwinds we encountered along the way.

In Recent News 
The Clear Choices Campaign — a non-partisan consumer-oriented group representing patients, providers, insurers, employers and life science companies — publicized its rankings this week of 12 state-based marketplaces and healthcare.gov for providing consumers support in selecting health plans and ranked our Quick Cost and Plan Finder tool No. 2. You can find the full report here

Legislative Update
We had the opportunity to share these successes and others with the Joint Health Committee of the Colorado Legislature Thursday, when we presented our annual report.  Next week, we will have another chance to tell our story to lawmakers, this time with the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday afternoon.

Take care,

Kevin

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

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.