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Janet Perez (R) oversees specialists (top) as they help callers and potential customers find health insurance at a customer contact and call center for HealthSource RI, Rhode Island Janet Perez (R) oversees specialists (top) as they help callers and potential customers find health insurance at a customer contact and call center for HealthSource RI, Rhode Island's health insurance exchange program for the Affordable Care Act or "ObamaCare," in Providence, R.I., Oct. 25, 2013. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder)  

Insurers canceling 250,000 plans in Colorado

Nearly a quarter of a million Coloradans will lose their existing health insurance policies under Obamacare, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) announced.

Hardly anyone is replacing those policies with new ones chosen through the state-run health care exchange.

To date, only 3,408 people have enrolled in new policies under the Affordable Care Act in Colorado, an increase of just 244 people since previous figures were released on Oct. 28.

Eighteen different insurance carriers, led by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado and Anthem — which together account for about 75 percent of the cancellations — canceled more than 106,000 individual plans and an additional 143,000 plans through the small group market used by employers.

The changes are causing “confusion and alarm,” according to a DOI press release sent out yesterday.

“While some plans are being cancelled, Coloradoans have many new options for 2014, due to the strength and competitiveness of our health insurance market,” Colorado Commissioner of Insurance Marguerite Salazar is quoted as saying.

But the state health exchange, called Connect for Health Colorado, continues to be plagued with problems that its own board members say are “odious” and “embarrassing.”

Of particular concern is a lengthy and detailed Medicaid questionnaire that must be filled out by some customers who are seeking subsidies for health insurance premiums even though they know they don’t qualify for Medicaid and are only going through the motions to get an official denial.

The denial is needed to continue with the process of shopping for subsidized health insurance through the exchange.

“It’s painful,” said Connect for Health Colorado board member Nathan Wilkes during a meeting earlier in the week reported by Health Policy Solutions. “It’s odious. It’s embarrassing to have to go through all these questions that are not necessary if they’re going to get kicked out anyway.”

Meanwhile, Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet were reportedly involved in a Democratic tongue-lashing of President Obama on Wednesday over the botched Obamacare rollout. They were among 15 Democratic lawmakers who met with Obama during a two-hour meeting that wasn’t on his official schedule.

“The rollout of HealthCare.gov has not been smooth — to say the least — and I shared the concerns of Coloradans directly with the president,” Udall said in a statement released by his office, adding that he asked the president to extend the enrollment period.

The senators’ expressions of concern are met with some skepticism in Colorado, with conservative blogs linking to a CNN article from last week that blames Democrats for blocking a GOP resolution three years ago that might have prevented so many insurance cancellations in the first place.

“In September 2010, Senate Republicans brought a resolution to the floor to block implementation of the grandfather rule,” according to the article, “warning that it would result in canceled policies and violate President Barack Obama’s promise that people could keep their insurance if they liked it.”

Senate Democrats voted unanimously to block the resolution, arguing that it would have allowed insurance companies to weaken policies, yet still have them qualify under the Affordable Care Act.

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