Shoppers in line at a Colorado Springs King Soopers.

(Photo: Connect for Health Colorado)
Health care advocates are scrambling to get people signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as a key deadline approaches.

People who want coverage beginning January 1 have to sign up by December 23 at the state’s new marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, but only a fraction of those eligible have actually bought policies.

That’s why advocates are fanning out across the state to find potential customers at grocery stores and pharmacies where they can meet people face-to-face and explain what can seem like a daunting array of choices. They’re also calling many of the 80,000 people who explored the Connect for Health Colorado website but didn’t end up buying insurance.

Corryn Young is just the kind of person the advocates hope to reach. She’s a 32-year-old dental hygienist from Ft. Collins who doesn’t have health insurance.

“I have no idea where to start,” Young said. “I don't know, I just haven't really paid attention to exactly what website I need to be at and things like that, and if I need to be at one specifically for Colorado, or which one works best?

Young had stopped at a Ft. Collins supermarket on her lunch break and saw the table staffed with people handing out information.

“I just kinda stopped and started reading, and, it's a perfect place to get my questions answered,” Young said. She left with contact information for a “health coverage guide” she can meet one-on-one to walk her through the process of signing up.

Teams like this have set up at a dozen grocery stores and pharmacies across Colorado. The state is far behind its goal for signing up 136,000 Coloradans by the end of March. If a lot fewer people than that sign up, it makes it harder for Obamacare overall to work in Colorado – it may not reach the critical mass necessary to hold prices down.

Myung Kim staffed an outreach table at a Colorado Springs grocery store where they offered chapstick, gift cards and brochures to entice people over for a discussion about health insurance.

“That personal assistance that is available to them is something that we know is key for people to have access to, so they can finish this process and get what they need,” Kim said.

For those not ready to decide on health insurance outside the grocery store, the advocates direct people to get free assistance offered at dozens of sites around the state, funded by the federal government.