Colorado Obamacare Exchange Expects A Quarter Of Sign-ups To Drop Coverage

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Colorado’s Obamacare exchange is doubling its estimate of how many sign-ups won’t actually have health coverage, according to exchange board members. 

The exchange previously estimated that 13 percent of the people who signed up for health insurance through its Obamacare marketplace would either fail to pay their premiums in the first place, or would drop their coverage sometime over the next year. But exchange officials have updated the figures and now believe that 24 percent of sign-ups will drop their policies in 2015, the Denver Post reports.

State-by-state estimates are one of the only clues to the number of people who actually ended up paying for, and keeping, health coverage they purchased from Obamacare exchanges. The Obama administration has not released any nationwide data on the number of people who ended up paying their first premiums for Obamacare coverage.

Industry experts estimated that around 15 percent of original sign-ups wouldn’t end up paying their first premiums; others have warned that many more will not continue to pay throughout the year and will be dropped from their plans. (RELATED: Community Centers Warn That Poor Won’t Keep Paying Obamacare Premiums) 

Enrollee totals are slightly buffeted by those who are eligible to sign up on the exchange outside of the open enrollment period, but the Obama administration ceased releasing monthly enrollment totals in May, much to the chagrin of liberals and conservatives alike.

Colorado expects that 35,800 of its 152,000 sign-ups will drop their coverage this year; officials project that next year 37,4000 of 175,000 sign-ups will drop their coverage.

Dropped coverage could make tight budgets even more difficult to navigate. Colorado’s exchange funds itself through a monthly fee on every health insurance policy sold in the marketplace. The exchange expects revenue to drop from $7.9 million to $6.9 million this fiscal year from dropped policies.

Exchange board member Ellen Daehnick told the Denver Post that the upped estimates are due to “feedback we’re getting from other states.”

Higher rates of dropped policies could spell problems for doctors and hospitals as well. The health care law requires insurers wait 90 days before canceling an insurance policy when a customer doesn’t pay, but only mandates that insurance companies pay for medical care the customer uses in the meantime for the first 30 days.

If the customer uses any health care services in the last 30 days before their policy is canceled, doctors will be forced to either wrangle payments directly from the customer or go without reimbursement.

Health care associations have protested the rule, as it could deter doctors and other providers from accepting plans sold on Obamacare exchanges. Rising estimates of dropped insurance coverage in some states could further pressure health care providers working with Obamacare marketplaces.

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Sarah Hurtubise