Conservative members of a nonprofit organization set up to run Colorado’s Affordable Care Act-mandated state health insurance exchange are reeling from sticker shock over the cost of rolling out the program.
Federal grants have already paid $61 million to set up the one-stop health insurance shop, but the board is now being asked to approve another $125 million federal grant request.
Opponents, led by board member Dr. Mike Fallon, said the request is an example of how the spending on the program can easily get out of control.
“Just because federal funds are available doesn’t mean we should ask for them,” the Denver Post quotes Fallon as saying at a meeting earlier this week.
But other board members say the money is needed to advertise what the health exchange will do, as well as hire enough insurance “navigators” to help customers deal with what is expected to be a confusing array of health plan options.
Of the $125 million more wanted by staff of the exchange, which is called Connect for Health Colorado, $14 million would be earmarked for outreach. The organization estimates that 90 percent of Coloradans don’t know about the exchange, what it does or how to use it.
Consumer groups want even more money spent on publicity, asking for $20 million. Groups like Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and CoPIRG Foundation fear that anything less amounts to underfunding the program.
Colorado is the first state to start publicizing its exchange — which opens for enrollment in October with coverage going into effect in January 2014 — with a $2 million public awareness campaign.
Those who support the grant request — which is due by May 15 — say that the federal money would be spent in other states if Colorado doesn’t ask for it.
Health care exchanges are among the pillars of Obamacare, allowing individuals and small businesses to band together to shop for low-cost insurance. How they will look and operate will vary from state to state. Those that choose not to open an exchange will have one opened for them by the federal government.
Once the federal start-up funds are gone, Colorado’s exchange is expected to pay for itself through a monthly $1.80 fee paid by those who find insurance through the site.
Colorado has approximately 350,000 uninsured residents who aren’t eligible for Medicaid.
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