More than 79,000 people visited the Connect for Health Colorado website in the first day of the health care exchange offering insurance plans, and more than 3,700 people called into the customer service lines.
The new exchanges, created in Colorado by Senate Bill 200, expected a busy day. The group created 5,500 new accounts, said Patty Fontneau, Connect for Health Colorado CEO.
“We’re very pleased with our progress today and the strong interest that we’ve seen from consumers,” she said. “Thousands of Coloradans have already begun learning about their new options and shopping for health insurance through our Marketplace and we are providing high quality customer support.”
As of 8 p.m., the stats looked like this:
– Unique website visitors: 79,000
– Shopping web page hits: 12 million
– Calls and chats with Customer Service Center Representatives: 3,700
– Accounts created: 5,500
– Average call time: three minutes, 49 seconds
Insurance plans purchased through the exchange take effect Jan. 1, and open enrollment continues until March 31. The nonprofit, which operates independently of Colorado’s state government, says it will release the number of people who actually sign up for insurance on a monthly basis.
“People have two months to shop,” said spokesman Ben Davis. “So if they want coverage Jan. 1, they don’t have to actually get it until Dec. 15. We think releasing them monthly will give the most accurate data about who is using the site.”
Individuals and families can choose from up to 150 private health insurance plans from 10 carriers and small employers can create small group plans from 92 health insurance plans provided by six carriers.
New financial assistance will be available to nearly 500,000 Coloradans to reduce costs of the premiums, but Connect for Health Colorado is set up to operate independently of the Affordable Care Act, and has bipartisan support.
“For the first time, people can get a real look at insurance plans and compare apples-to-apples, side by side,” Davis said. “It’s a huge, new thing.”
And because it is so new, the website experienced some glitches in its opening hours, he said. Connect for Health Colorado addressed these errors by temporarily suspending new account creation for a short period of time early in the day.
“As expected, we encountered several challenges when our system went live today,” said Fontneau. “These challenges were addressed quickly and efficiently with minimal impact on the customer experience.”
In El Paso County, rates at the exchange range from a low of $139 for a basic plan for a 27 year old to $$255 for a platinum plan. For a 40-year old, the prices range from $205 for a bronze plan to $311 for a platinum plan. But anyone making less than $96,000 for a family of four could be eligible for subsidies for the insurance from the federal government.
Local assistance sites are at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, Healthy Communities at Memorial Hospital, Peak Vista Community Health centers, Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and Tri-Lakes Cares.
Randy Hylton, spokesman at Peak Vista, said the safety-net clinic was busier than usual Oct. 1 – but not because of the exchange. The Affordable Care Act also included an optional Medicaid expansion. The state of Colorado opted for the expansion – many states chose not to expand care – and Oct. 1 was the first day to sign up for benefits.
“We did see a lot of action,” Hylton said. “It’s was the first day people could sign up for Medicaid benefits, so they were there for that. Those benefits start Jan. 1. It was pretty steady all day.”
At Peak Vista, the stats looked like this:
– 65 Medicaid Expansion appointments
– one Marketplace (Exchange) appointment
– 40 Medicaid expansion walk-in contacts
– Eight Marketplace (Exchange) walk-in contacts.
· 114 total household impacts