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

January 9, 2017

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

DENVER —  More than 158,000 Coloradans selected healthcare coverage for 2017 through the state health insurance Marketplace through Sunday, January 8, a rate 18 percent ahead of signups one year ago, according to new data released today by Connect for Health Colorado®.

“We have been pleasantly surprised with the increase in sign-ups during this open enrollment period,” said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson.  “Our numbers have gone up in our last two open enrollment periods. Last year we were up 19 percent over the previous year and this year we are seeing the same kind of strong growth.

“These many thousands of Coloradans have protected their health and their finances with healthcare coverage. I encourage anyone who does not yet have health insurance for 2017 to go to our site, Connectforhealthco.com, check to see if they qualify for financial assistance, review the available plans, and complete an enrollment. They can have coverage in place February 1 if they act by January 15.”

Since November 1, Coloradans selected 158,960 medical and/or dental insurance plans (155,370 were medical plan selections). Seventy-eight percent of the plan selections are renewing customers and 22 percent are new to the Marketplace.

Whether you are renewing or enrolling for the first time, you must complete enrollment by January 15, to have coverage February 1. Open Enrollment runs through January 31. That is the last day for people who buy their own health insurance to sign up for 2017 coverage, unless they experience a qualifying life change event, such as marriage, divorce, having a child, losing your employer-sponsored insurance, or moving to Colorado.

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

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

December 19, 2016
Contact: Luke Clarke, 720-496-2545

DENVER — More than 144,000 Coloradans selected healthcare coverage for 2017 through the state health insurance Marketplace through Sunday, December 18, a rate 18 percent ahead of signups one year ago, according to new data released today by Connect for Health Colorado®.

“We have seen a definite increase in the pace of sign-ups during the first half of this Open Enrollment period,” said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson. “These Coloradans have protected their health and their finances with healthcare coverage next year. I encourage anyone who does not yet have health insurance for 2017 to go to our site, ConnectforHealthCO.com, check to see if they qualify for financial assistance, review the available plans, and complete an enrollment. They can have coverage in place February 1 if they act by January 15.”

In the first month and a half of the annual Open Enrollment period, Coloradans selected 144,692 medical and/or dental insurance plans (139,509 were medical plan selections). Eighty percent of the plan selections are renewing customers and 20 percent are new to the Marketplace.

Whether you are renewing or enrolling for the first time, you must complete enrollment by January 15, to have coverage February 1. Open Enrollment runs through January 31.

Anyone who began an application for January coverage before Thursday’s deadline but did not finish the process should call 855-752-6749 for assistance before completing their enrollment.

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 (without 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

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

December 1, 2016
Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

DENVER — More than 37,000 Coloradans selected healthcare coverage for 2017 through the state health insurance Marketplace in November, a rate 23 percent ahead of signups one year ago, according to new data released today by Connect for Health Colorado®.

“The pace of sign-ups during the first month of this Open Enrollment has been very heartening,” said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson. “We know that there is a lot of discussion now about the future direction of healthcare, but what remains constant and true is the importance of protecting the health and financial future of all Coloradans. I encourage everyone who needs health insurance to check to see if they qualify for financial assistance, review the available plans, and complete an enrollment before the last-minute rush.”

In the first month of the annual Open Enrollment period, Coloradans selected 37,948 medical and dental insurance plans. That compares to 30,777 such plan selections in November 2015.

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 (without 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

The holidays are a time to disconnect from our daily grind and reflect. For me, the holiday last week helped bring some perspective to the changing environment in which we operate. If anything has been constant in our organization’s history it is the inevitability of change, whether it’s in market dynamics, regulation or the public policy environment. What brings me comfort and confidence is knowing how we’ve responded to that change in the past — we thrived.

  • We created, built and delivered an entirely new service for individuals, families and small business purchasing health insurance in Colorado and we are consistently seen as one of the top-performing and financially stable state-based Marketplaces.
  • We are trending 25% above where enrollments were only one year ago.
  • We developed a wide network of expert stakeholders from hospitals, trusted community-based organizations, Assistance Network partners, and brokers who have tirelessly served Coloradans for four years.
  • More than 93% of Coloradans have health insurance, the highest rates in the state’s history and one of the highest rates in the country.
  • Bankruptcies tied to medical debt have dropped by more than half to 45,000 a year.
  • We delivered $184 million in tax credits to our state in 2015.
  • Our innovative consumer decision-support tools leveraging Colorado claims data continue to receive positive attention.

While there are legitimate concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we should remember that Colorado’s path to building a health insurance Marketplace started years before national healthcare reform. The history dates back to 2006, when the Colorado General Assembly and Gov. Bill Owens established the Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform, known as the “208 Commission.”

In 2008, under Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter Jr., the Commission released its “Final Report to the Colorado General Assembly,” with a set of 26 robust recommendations from a diverse set of bipartisan stakeholders. The recommendations included the concept of a health insurance marketplace, much like the one we operate today. In many ways, our state was ahead of the curve. In the coming months, we’ll work to remind our partners, legislators, and the business community that while there is still room for improvement, we have made a very big dent in these issues identified ten years ago. Our mission of improving access, affordability and choice still ring true, regardless of who is in office.

While legislation has yet to be proposed, we are keeping our eye on several things. On Monday we outlined possible election impacts to the organization with our Board Policy Committee. We will continue to monitor potential changes to the ACA through the lens of our mission statement.

In Recent News

Six-term Republican Georgia congressman and orthopedic surgeon, Tom Price, has been nominated as the next secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). In this role, Price will oversee many departments within HHS like the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), but his main focus will be to define the future of the Affordable Care Act and how Healthcare.gov and other state-based Marketplaces, like ourselves, comply with any new changes to the law. Price will need to be confirmed by the Senate before his appointment is final.

Seema Verma was also recently selected to run CMS. Verma has extensive Medicaid experience having designed Indiana’s Medicaid expansion under then Gov. Mike Pence. In this role, she’ll have oversight of Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In Colorado, this program is called Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), which offers low-cost health insurance for certain children and pregnant women and is administered by Colorado’s Department of Health Care Policy & Financing (HCPF).

I appreciate everything you all are doing to help improve the health of Coloradans.

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

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re busy as ever enrolling customers. In fact, enrollments are outpacing our numbers by more than 25 percent over this time last year, with our biggest day falling the day after the election. And, this is a trend we’re seeing nationally.

While the recent election has raised a lot of questions about the future of healthcare, what remains constant and true is the importance of protecting the health and financial future of our customers. Broken bones, disease and other chronic conditions aren’t political, but can happen at any time and in some cases, are preventable with access to care and health insurance. Our dedication to helping customers remains as strong as ever.

With the upcoming holiday, we’d like to make you aware of our hours and closures. The Connect for Health Colorado administrative office will be closed Thursday, November 24th and Friday, November 25th. Our Customer Service Center will be operating the following hours:

  • Thursday, November 24th: Closed
  • Friday, November 25th: Open 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, November 26th: Open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

We will continue to communicate weekly and as we know more. You can also see updates on our new “Election Questions” page that we created to address inquiries.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday,

Kevin N. 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