Connect for Health Colorado: Optimism surrounds sixth-annual open enrollment (column) | VailDaily.com

Connect for Health Colorado: Optimism surrounds sixth-annual open enrollment (column)

Linda Gann
Valley Voices

We are four weeks into this health care open enrollment period, and in Eagle County, our early numbers are already above last year's record-setting pace. The number of initial signups is the strongest start to an open enrollment period we have seen since opening six years ago.

We don't know for certain what has driven so much early interest; however, our analysis of the rates and plans offered by our health insurance company partners, along with significant monthly cost savings for qualified Coloradans, may be part of it. On average, Connect for Health Colorado consumers renewing for 2019 — with financial help — will see a drop in their net premium of 24 percent.

It's important for residents to know that Connect for Health Colorado is the only place to qualify for monthly cost savings on private health insurance. In 2018, the average monthly savings for Eagle County households was $544. As good as these averages are, it is as important as ever that our consumers review all their options and look beyond the premium alone and at the total cost of coverage and their own individual situation.

If you purchase your health insurance on the individual market, and would like local expert assistance in Eagle County, here are some resources:

• Contact information for 10 certified, independent brokers can be found at http://connectforhealthco.com.

• Certified assistance site: Mountain Family Health Center in Edwards, 970-569-3435.

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In addition to our local assistance, we offer an award-winning online tool that allows consumers to easily compare their health insurance options side by side. The platform walks members through a series of questions about themselves, their financial status, typical coverage needs, doctor preferences and necessary prescriptions.

Whichever way you prefer to enroll, remember that you must select a plan by Saturday, Dec. 15, for an effective coverage date of Tuesday, Jan. 1. Plans selected between Sunday, Dec. 16, and Tuesday, Jan. 15, (the end of open enrollment) will not have an effective date until Feb. 1.

The midterm election reminded us of our bipartisan roots and representatives of both political parties' continued oversight of Connect for Health Colorado.

In a recent blog, CEO Kevin Patterson writes, "It's good to remember that the original idea for a state health insurance marketplace (they called it a 'connector' then) originated with a panel formed by Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, occupied the governor's mansion when the group delivered its recommendation, and our outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper was in office to sign the legislation when Republican and Democratic legislators passed a bill creating the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, which does business as Connect for Health Colorado. That bill ensures that legislators in the minority and in the majority party share seats on our 10-member legislative oversight committee and each party names members to our board of directors."

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. In the past, when confronted with change, we thrived.

Linda Gann is Connect for Health Colorado's senior manager for the Western Slope Region. Connect for Health Colorado is a public nonprofit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance marketplace. Consumers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access expert, in-person help from a statewide network of certified brokers and community-based assisters. Visit connectforhealthco.com for more.