State health-exchange board frustrated by slow enrollment
The Denver Post
State health-insurance exchange officials said Monday they have 3,164 enrollments in Obamacare so far, expressing frustration with the slow pace during a special meeting.
More than 44,000 Coloradans have created accounts with the exchange since its launch Oct. 1, but the difficulty of educating new customers in preparation for enrollment has been compounded by a series of computer glitches.
“If we didn’t have these glitches, what would that number be?” asked board member Arnold Salazar, of Colorado Health Partnerships. He wondered aloud if a better system would have meant current enrollment of “6,000, or 18,000 or 30,000.”
“That’s what I struggle with,” he said.
The exchange has said it expects 136,000 enrollments in the first year.
State Medicaid officials, who also serve on the board, are happier with their 25,000 approved applicants who will be enrolled Jan. 1 under expanded Medicaid rules, another key feature of the Affordable Care Act.
They must work with the exchange, though, to hand off people who must complete a Medicaid application even though they will not qualify and want to go directly to the exchange’s federally subsidized policies. Medicaid is supposed to supply an “instant denial” of those applicants; instead, that happens only 50 percent of the time now. Others are waiting weeks.
Susan Birch, a board member who oversees Medicaid as director of state Health Care Policy and Finance, said Medicaid is working internally and with federal officials to streamline the application and get instant decisions to 90 percent of cases. Currently, many applicants are required to fill out questions on assets that are not required for Medicaid decisions.
Reaching out to account holders who have not yet enrolled is taking far longer than expected, officials said. When exchange marketers reach out to 100 people who have expressed interest, only 35 call back, and just 21 of those enroll. Moving from interest to enrollment is taking longer than the 90-minute average that exchange planners budgeted for.
The exchange expects enrollments to improve when buyers can finish all application materials online, beginning Nov. 4, though that change may expose Colorado to more bad connections with troubled federal data hubs. Currently, Colorado customers can create accounts and browse online, but must call the customer-service center to finish an application.