The following is a "Letter to the Editor" that Donna Wehe, Hub Coordinator for Connect for Health Colorado-SLV and SE region, recently wrote to The Valley Courier.

Dear Editor,

Many of your readers might be interested in the results of the first six months of Open Enrollment in Colorado’s marketplace (i.e. Exchange) as it pertains to the six SLV counties.  In the state of Colorado, as of April 15th, there have been over 127,000 individuals that created accounts and enrolled in private health insurance.  Of those, 27% were between the ages of 55-64 years old and 59% were able to qualify for financial assistance (the average tax credit to help with monthly premiums was $277). In addition, there were 1,860 employees and family members from 220 small businesses that enrolled.

The following are the number of individuals that have now purchased health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado:  Alamosa-325, Conejos-167, Costilla-95, Mineral-51, Rio Grande-329 and Saguache-212. 

Who helped sign everyone up?  In the San Luis Valley, there were 12 individuals who were trained as Health Coverage Guides as well as 10 brokers who went through training and are listed as certified by the Exchange.  Outreach was conducted in collaboration with carriers, brokers, SLV Health, Valley-Wide Health Systems and the Rio Grande Hospital.  Many partners, such as Adams State University, Trinidad State Jr. College and the local county department of human services worked closely with the guides.  The customer service center (the 800-toll free support line) trained and employed as many as 200 representatives to meet the demand for assistance.

Besides the individuals who now have the benefit of private health insurance coverage, many more residents of the SLV qualified for the expanded Medicaid coverage.  In Colorado, 178,508 individuals enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program and 3,393 were from the SLV.   From Alamosa-1,175, Conejos-506, Costilla-375, Mineral-38, Rio Grande-813 and Saguache-486.

What’s next?  For those who might see an increase in their income, they might lose their Medicaid eligibility.  This causes a special open enrollment period to occur, and they are allowed to purchase health care through the marketplace.  Other qualifying Life Change Events, such as moving to Colorado, having a baby, retiring, or losing a job with benefits, etc. will open these special enrollment opportunities.  I will write more about that in a future letter. 

For now, those with questions may contact any of our Health Coverage Guides or Brokers which can be found on www.ConnectforHealthCO.com; then click on the “About Us” tab for their contact information.

Small businesses (less than 50 full time employees) may continue to enroll during this time between Open Enrollment periods.  The next OE period will begin November 15, 2014.

Sincerely,

Donna Wehe, Hub Coordinator for Connect for Health Colorado-SLV and SE region

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