The official name for the new Colorado Health Insurance Exchange is Connect for Health Colorado or CHC. This is a marketplace where small businesses and individuals that have previously been uninsured can find affordable plans. CHC and other such exchanges across the nation will begin enrollments from Oct 2013, and coverage for those enrolled will become active as of January 1, 2014.
The marketplace was established as required under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), better known as the health reform act. As per the requirements of this new law, all U. S. Citizens and legal residents must have healthcare coverage starting Jan 1, 2014. Many states are setting up their own exchanges as the main mechanism through which this law will be implemented.
CHC is expected to provide access to coverage for 500,000 additional adults in the state. This means a vast majority of approximately 750,000 uninsured people in Colorado will be able to enroll into affordable plans. Those who already have insurance can also find a new plan if they think it will save them money and provide better coverage.
The program currently has two components. One is the exchange for individuals, and another one called SHOP for small businesses with no more than 100 employees. Larger companies with more employees will be able access this marketplace starting from 2017, assuming the state approves that too.
It is hoped that the establishment of CHC will reduce premiums by around 14-20 percent. This will be accomplished through an expansion of the market combined with competition for customers among providers offering plans in the exchange. Practically speaking, that works out to somewhere in between $1,510 to $2,160 per year in healthcare premium savings for families in Colorado.
The best part about this whole reform plan is that it transforms some of the worst rules in the old system. For example, providers participating in the exchange cannot turn away customers with preexisting conditions or charge them higher premiums than others. They also cannot refuse to cover a preexisting condition if it is normally covered under the plan for everyone else.
The federal government is paying for the entire cost of establishing these exchanges and their operational costs until 2016. After that, the state governments will start paying for 5% of the costs until 2020, at which time the state is expected to start paying for 20 percent of costs. Colorado alone is expected to get additional federal funding to the tune of $12 billion or more for all the expenses associated with the marketplace and other reforms.
The Colorado Health Insurance Exchange is the biggest change in federal and state assistance for ordinary people and small business owners since the New Deal. The debate over what is being billed as the socialization of healthcare continues, and business associations don’t like the additional costs it will impose on them. The implementation of CHC and similar exchanges in other states is likely to face a few bumps as the confusion over the changes is sorted out. However, this cost and hassle pales in comparison to the undeniable fact that most people in the state will end up having access to health insurance.
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