The Head Of Colorado’s Obamacare Exchange Thinks It May Ultimately Fail

Sarah Hurtubise | Reporter

The board chair of Colorado’s Obamacare exchange said in off-the-cuff remarks Wednesday that the state-run operation may not be able to cut it financially.

Sharon O’Hara, board chair of Connect for Health Colorado, was pushing the board’s pick for a new CEO of the exchange for state lawmakers’ approval Wednesday when she made the comments, according to Denver’s 9 News. O’Hara expressed confidence in Robert Malone’s ability to right the troubled exchange’s finances — if it’s possible at all.

“If this is doable,” O’Hara said, “he can make it happen.”

When pressed on her qualifier by Republican state Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik, the chairwoman admitted that she’s not sure of the exchange’s viability.

“I have my doubts on good days,” O’Hara said. “Today is not one of my good days.”

O’Hara walked back her comments after the meeting in a letter to state lawmakers, saying she wanted to “add to” her response.

“We were talking about this candidate’s business experience and his qualifications for meeting challenges currently facing Connect for Health Colorado, and my remarks may have left open to question my view as to whether those issues can be properly addressed,” O’Hara wrote. “I want to assure the committee members that we are bringing forward a finalist whose experience, talent and intelligence are a match to the challenges we face and who possesses the skills needed to help us deliver on our mission to increase healthcare access, affordability and choice.”

It’s not the first time that a member of the Colorado exchange’s board has questioned its ability to survive, however. A former board member, Ellen Daehnik, previously told 9 News that the state may need to “bail out” the Obamacare exchange.

Colorado’s one of only 14 state-run Obamacare exchanges this year — and a number of them are facing similar financial problems. Initial grant funding from the federal government has run out and the exchanges are supposed to be self-sustaining, but many are struggling to find a viable source.

Like other states and HealthCare.gov, the Colorado exchange currently taxes insurance plans monthly to fund its ongoing operations. While some states tax only health insurance plans sold on their Obamacare exchanges, however, Colorado taxes all insurance plans in the state.

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