[This is the second article in a series written by RMHP CEO Steve ErkenBrack about Health Care Reform and the Health Insurance Marketplaces. You can find the first article here.]
On October 1, 2013 Connect for Health Colorado (“C4HCO”), Colorado’s health insurance Marketplace, opened for business. The Marketplace is a way for individuals and families to compare the new health plans and to enroll in a plan for 2014.
Are you wondering how this Marketplace works? When you visit ConnectforHealthCO, you will be guided, step-by-step, through the process. The goal is to give you the information you need to choose the plan that is right for you and your family. All of the information you need is in one place, and you will be able to find the following:
Premium and Out of Pocket Costs: There is a wide-range of plan options available. All of the plans available cover the same basic benefits. Plans in C4HCO will be labeled Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum or Catastrophic to make it easy for you compare plans with similar levels of coverage and costs. At a glance, you will also see which carrier is offering the plan and the monthly premium.
When shopping for your plan in Colorado’s Marketplace, you can compare all plans or you can use simple filters to narrow down the plans to those meet your specific needs. For example, you could filter to only see Bronze plans, or plans offered by a particular carrier.
That is a good start, but for many consumers, these are not the only factors to consider when selecting a plan. You might want to consider whether you can see a particular doctor on a plan or the quality of the carrier.
Physicians and Hospitals: Many people will want to make sure their doctor or a particular hospital is available under a specific plan. It is important to check by accessing the link to the carrier’s network or contacting the call center of C4HCO. You should not assume that your doctor is in a particular plan. Later in October, you will be able to narrow your search to plans that include a specific physician.
Quality: As in many things, the lowest price is not always the best value. For example, few health carriers match the five-star quality of Rocky Mountain Health Plans. You will not be able to sort by quality rating, but you will be able to see which carriers that have proven their quality through their ratings later this month.
Tax Credits: When you purchase in the Marketplace, you will be able to find out if you are eligible for an Advanced Premium Tax Credit, to lower the cost of your insurance. The size of the tax credit could range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars, depending on your family size, income and the cost of coverage in your area. To find out whether you qualify, be sure to have your social security number and last year’s tax return handy. This information will help you move through the eligibility process more quickly.
Be careful to estimate your income accurately. The amount of the tax credit you receive will be based on your actual income for 2014. Therefore, you will want to avoid estimating your income far below what you will earn, or you could end up with a “hit” on your income tax return next year.
Find out if you might qualify for tax credits with our health care reform calculator.
When to Enroll: If you want your coverage to begin on January 1, 2014, you need to sign up by December 15, 2013. Although you will be able to sign up on C4HCO until March 31, allow several weeks to process your application. So, if you don’t have coverage through your employer, Medicare, Medicaid or another government program, you need to sign up early!
Help: C4HCO is designed for consumers to shop and enroll on-line at Connect for Health Colorado, but there are several ways to get more personalized assistance. If you have questions while browsing the website, help is a click away through a “live chat” button. You can also call C4HCO at 855-Plans-4-You (or 855-752-6749) to speak to a representative.
In addition, in-person assistance is available from brokers and health coverage guides, or certified assistance sites, throughout Colorado. One certified assistance site in Western Colorado is Hilltop’s Health Access (HilltopsHealthAccess.org or 970-244-0850). You can find other assistance sites on the C4HCO website. Of course, if you want to talk with someone at Rocky Mountain Health Plans about one of its 52 plans on C4HCO (more than any other company), you can contact us toll free at 855-830-1564.
Colorado has been building this state-based marketplace for years. As many of us know, when a new process rolls out, it sometimes takes a little time to work the kinks out. Most things work more smoothly on day 60 than on day 1. C4HCO is doing things that are clearly good (tax credits, quality ratings) but have never been done before. If it doesn’t work perfectly on your first try, help is ready. Try the “live chat”, contact the call center, or get a hand from the other sources noted above.
In the coming weeks, as Coloradans begin shopping for 2014 health care coverage on Connect for Health Colorado’s website or with their broker, Steve ErkenBrack, CEO of RMHP and the only insurance carrier on the Board of Directors of Connect for Health Colorado will address three other topics on the Exchange: Where did it come from? Common misperceptions. What is the future?