Colorado Obamacare exchange unsure of its impact on the uninsured

Barb Wire

Managers of Colorado’s state run Obamacare exchange have no idea how many of the 128,000 people who’ve enrolled through the site since October were uninsured previously.

An estimated 700,000 to 800,000 Coloradans were without insurance prior to the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Durango Herald, but exchange officials have no way of telling how much of a dent they’ve had in those numbers.

Customers aren’t required to say whether they already have insurance when enrolling through the site, exchange director Patty Fontneau told legislatures during an oversight hearing on Thursday. Of those who volunteered the information, about half were uninsured, she said.

Further muddling the picture is an estimated 325,000 people whose existing insurance policies were cancelled because they didn’t comply with the ACA. Although Fontneau said about 90 percent of those customers were offered new policies with their insurance carriers, it’s not known how many signed up.

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Lawmakers were quick to show their frustration with the lack of information.

“We ought to know something about is it working or is it not working,” Republican state Sen. Kevin Lundberg is quoted as saying in the Herald. “Guesses aren’t good enough.”

“I would underscore my complete exasperation in that,” added Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts, quoted in the Denver Business Journal.

Fontneau said the question might be addressed by an upcoming report by the Colorado Health Institute, which tracks the number of uninsured residents in the state. The Journal also reported that she is considering working with actuaries to study the issue.

Lawmakers were also concerned that the health care exchange has begun offering products other than health insurance, such as vision insurance. Fontneau said the exchange might also offer life insurance in the future, but added, “We are not in any way, shape or form trying to replace or bypass” private insurance brokers.

“I think this starts going so far afield from what the exchange was set up to do,” Roberts said.

Fontneau said the additional products were required to produce revenue for the exchange so that fees on health insurance customers could stay low.

According to the Denver Business Journal, the average premiums for health insurance were between $300 and $350 per month.

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