Colorado health exchange: Enrollment rate outpacing last year

Photo: Health officials in Lake County
Lee Trujillo, a health coverage navigator, talks with Colleen Nielsen, the Director of the Lake County Public Health Agency in Leadville. Trujillo helps uninsured Coloradans sign up for health insurance via Connect for Health Colorado.

Representing a significant increase from the first week last year, thousands of Coloradans have signed up for private health insurance since open enrollment started over a week ago, according to state’s healthcare exchange.

Connect for Health Colorado says 6,144 individuals and families have enrolled in coverage since Nov. 15. That’s well over the 204 health plan signups during the first week of enrollment a year ago.

More than half, 4,400 people, who signed up re-enrolled through the state's exchange.

Colorado is among the top five states with the biggest declines in the number of people who are uninsured.

Last year, due to computer troubles and an application process some found complicated, Colorado's enrollment effort began with problems. But, it finished strong and by November, roughly 150,000 had bought insurance through the exchange, the Associated Press reported.

This year, interim CEO Gary Drews says things are running smoothly, with a new website where people can see if they qualify for Medicaid or for tax credits to help buy private insurance.

"The bulk of folks that have signed up, well over 50 percent, have received financial assistance," said Drews. "I would venture to say that most, if not all, of those folks have needed to use the new system.”

Nearly a thousand people have signed up for dental coverage, a figure that’s also well ahead of last year's 87 enrollments during the first week after open enrollment started.

Drews said people need to enroll by Dec. 15 if they want coverage at the start of the year. “So we’re really encouraging folks to get out and sign up,” said Drews.

Open enrollment runs until Feb. 15. If Coloradans who don't have insurance fail to sign up before then, they may be penalized on their taxes.