Erin Gleason, left, helps LIFT-UP of Routt County Assistant Thrift Store Manager Nancy Mayer shop for a new health insurance plan Friday. The launch of Colorado's new health insurance exchange will allow some people to get more affordable health insurance.

Photo by Scott Franz

Erin Gleason, left, helps LIFT-UP of Routt County Assistant Thrift Store Manager Nancy Mayer shop for a new health insurance plan Friday. The launch of Colorado's new health insurance exchange will allow some people to get more affordable health insurance.

Launch of new health insurance marketplace already changing lives in Routt County

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— Before Tuesday morning, Lynn Abbott said her quest to find her daughter's family a better health insurance plan was daunting.

From her home in Steamboat Springs, it was difficult for Abbott to make the slew of phone calls she needed to make to understand all the plans that are available for a family that lives in nearby Eagle County.

Lots of questions went unanswered.

By the numbers

Percentage of people who are uninsured, by county:

■ Routt (Hayden, Oak Creek, Steamboat Springs): 19.4 percent

■ Chaffee (Buena Vista, Salida): 21.6 percent

■ Garfield (Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Rifle): 24.5 percent

■ La Plata (Durango): 25 percent

■ Grand (Granby, Winter Park): 25.8 percent

■ Eagle (Avon, Eagle, Gypsm): 26 percent

■ Summit (Breckenridge/Silverthorne): 26.6 percent

■ Gunnison (Gunnison/Crested Butte): 28.1 percent

■ San Miguel (Telluride): 30.5 percent

But the search changed last week with something as simple as the launch of a new website.

Abbott was one of the thousands of Coloradans who woke up on Tuesday and eagerly hopped on www.connectforhealthco.com, the hub for the state's new health insurance exchange.

She braved the reports of technical glitches and server errors.

She had been waiting for this day for a long time.

Now, she can browse plans and see them all side by side from a personal computer.

It could help change her daughter's life.

Abbott said her daughter and her husband are self-employed and only have been able to afford a catastrophic health insurance plan with a very high deductible, which doesn't offer much piece of mind for a mother.

Abbott's hopeful a better, more affordable plan is somewhere on the insurance exchange.

“I think this is going to be a huge help,” Abbott said.

Her initial research shows the family could get an insurance plan from the exchange that will completely pay for such things as wellness visits and dental and eye exams for her daughter's two kids.

“If the rates are good enough for a family of four, it's not fulfilling its promise,” she said of the Affordable Care Act. “But I think it will be.”

Years in the making

Colorado's new health insurance exchange is the result of the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.

The exchange allows small businesses with less than 50 employees and people who are uninsured, self-insured and self-employed to shop for and compare health insurance plans online.

Individuals also can apply for tax credits.

According to a news release from Connect for Health Colorado, 107,000 unique visitors logged onto the website during its first two days of operation Oct. 1 and 2. A total of 8,400 accounts were created, and there were 6,400 calls and online chats recorded with customer service center representatives.

What's the goal of the new system?

In it's simplest form, the law and the health care exchange are about getting the uninsured affordable health insurance.

Whether it will do that still is up for debate, and it's the subject of intense political discussions.

What is known is that in Routt County, nearly a quarter of adults are uninsured or underinsured, according to the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association.

The population of residents who lack any form of health insurance is estimated to be about 19 percent, based on U.S. Census Data.

That's lower than many other counties in the state that host ski resorts.

But in the first days of the health exchange here, it was evident the new website and the Affordable Care Act are poised to change the lives of many.

Nancy Mayer, the thrift store manager at LIFT-UP of Routt County, browsed the exchange on Friday afternoon and was hopeful she would find a plan that will be affordable and will no longer deny her coverage because of a preexisting condition.

The site does not ask about a person's medical history other than asking if a woman is pregnant, and instead, determines the cost of plans based on age, income, family makeup and whether a person smokes or not.

Another woman with multiple medical conditions and without insurance walked into LIFT-UP the day before and realized she likely is one of the 1,118 residents in Routt County the VNA estimates will be newly eligible for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

About 1,000 of those people are adults who don't have any dependent children and earn an annual income of less than $15,856.

In the wake of these changes, Erin Gleason has been getting a lot more phone calls recently.

Ready to help

It was a quiet day at LIFT-UP's food bank Wednesday afternoon.

Gleason, a community and small business insurance coordinator for the VNA, sat at a computer terminal, ready to walk people through the complexities of the new insurance exchanges.

“It's super exciting,” she said. “Every day in the news there's something really important to my job. But it's also frustrating because there is so much misinformation out there, and there's a lot of resistance to any sort of expansion of government programs. I really hope that people will go online and check what this means for them as a family or as an individual.”

Gleason is one of a handful of health insurance “navigators” in Routt and Moffat counties who can help individuals compare plans.

Months of training led up to the launch of the new website, and Gleason's ready to answer any question about shopping for health insurance.

“I'm talking to people now who really want insurance, who have been excluded from the insurance market because of preexisting conditions or cost,” she said. “These people are really excited to get it.”

She's also there to take some pressure out of the decision.

If people encounter technical problems on the site or don't have enough information to pull the trigger on a plan, she said residents here can take their time shopping and really start making decisions in November.

“They shouldn't get frustrated or abandon their search,” she said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

Comments

Rick Akin 1 year ago

It would probably have been a good idea for Scott to have disclosed that Lynn Abbott is a former county chairman of the Democratic Party and, according to the party website, is the current chairman of a communications committee for the party. So, I might suggest that her views are not quite unbiased. I have gone on the exchange website to price coverage since I will have to replace my current coverage. I found that to replace my current coverage with similar coverage, my cost will double. This is particularly bad since the cost of my coverage had already doubled in the last couple of years. That means I will be paying almost 4 times as much for coverage as I was a couple of years ago. To solve the problem, I have dropped the health insurance benefit for my employees, which I am able to do since I have under 50 employees. I suspect a lot of employers will solve the problem this way.

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Fred Duckels 1 year ago

The pilot should not be printing this article without clarification. This is basically an infomercial, or propaganda might better describe it.

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Scott Wedel 1 year ago

Rick,

I do not see why Lynn Abbott's political affiliations matter. She is not being asked to make an independent assessment of the program. Instead, she is describing the options she found for her family's situation and those are better than she had found before.

Likewise, your political affiliations such as your involvement in the Steamboat Institute (which you didn't disclose in your letter) does not invalidate that you found worse options for your employees.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year ago

I have said all along, there will be winners and there will be losers. That's what happens when government intervenes. The final score will be interesting eh Dave

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dave mcirvin 1 year ago

gubmint bad, free market good... not quite so.

shopping on the exchange last week I've thrashed my old 'free market' health ins rates by 300/mo, while keeping my current pcp and with a 50% lower yearly deductible (2.5K from 5K).

but by far and away, one of the best single achievements of the PPACA is that out of reach health insurance premiums for many are now more in reach. IMMO (in my medical opinion), the PPACA and it's future improvements may be as successful as the medicare and social security programs.

thanks Lynn.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year ago

Dave says "gubmint bad, free market good... Not quite so" is that an all or nothing statement? Glad to hear you are a winner, Dave. Do you know any one that is a loser regards PPACA. Unfortunately, I do. As I said in my original post, there will winners and there will be losers. Only time will as to the final tally. I hope all would be winners. From my observation that is not the way "gubmint" works all of the time

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jerry carlton 1 year ago

Affordable healthcare is an oxymoron thanks to healthcare executives, higher ups in federal government with platinum plated health care plans on the taxpayers dollars, greedy drug companies, over paid specialty doctors, and Americans wishing to live forever while smoking, drinking, using mind altering drugs, plus a thousand other reasons.

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mark hartless 1 year ago

The reason healthcare is expensive is because those who recieve it are not directly responsible for paying for it, thus they have little incentive to shop for the best rates. In many cases otherwise frugal or at least sensible people who shop for good deals on automobiles, food, air fare, hotels, etc never even bother checking what their insurance companies are being billed for the service they for some reason feel entitled to. How could this not be expected to result in runaway costs?

If we treated our car insurance like our medical insurance and expected it to cover tires, batteries, car washes, oil changes, etc then it would be just as out of control as medical insurance.

To say that prices are a result of greed is simplistic. That's to say that the provider of that service or commodity sets the price. If that were entirely so then that provider would likely set prices even higher since most mens greed knows no limits.

People have always drank, smoked, etc and simultaneously wanted to "live forever" but healthcare costs have not always been astronomical.

A further explaination is that there are more life-saving and prolonging things available today so it is natural for that larger spectrum of applications to cost more on balance.

If COSTS can not be curbed downward (and they can not, it's called inflation) and if PRICES can not be allowed to rise (and they can not because gubbamint is bankrupt) then providing LESS of that commodity for the same price is the ONLY solution.

One would think even the numbskulls in this country today would be smart enough to have seen this old trick at the grocery store... where the "provider" of their favorite item can't raise the PRICE and can't cut his COST so they put less STUFF in the Oreo Cookie. Remember when regular Oreo Cookies had as much STUFF in them as the ones they call "Double Stuffs" have today??? If you can't make the connection between the Oreo's and the exact same thing with healthcare then I sincerely believe you are SUCKER.

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Scott Wedel 1 year ago

Seems to me that it is easy enough for some people to to mention problems caused by people they call freeloaders because their income is too low to pay taxes and so on. But somehow these same people don't recognize the similar issue of having a large portion of the population without health insurance as also being freeloaders because they will receive emergency medical care.

Unless, we as a country are going to deny medical care to a pregnant woman without health insurance whom shows up at the emergency room in labor then we need something like Obamacare and requiring people to have insurance.

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Bob Smith 1 year ago

unless we start turning people away at the emergency room door, where they can bleed to death or otherwise die in the alley way adjacent to the for profit hospital, we have some serious thinking to do. as a Christian nation we are simply not going to boot you from trauma because your chase card maxed out. do I hear ANYONE arguing this point?? walk into any hospital in the country and you will get treatment regardless if you can pay or not, Oh, and as it turns out -- its WAY less cost effective and does not provide the best care, and more importantly -- results. (think ER doc treating your torn ACL.....you need a specialist for a lot of things. the ER doc's are amazing, but specialists are there for a reason,) But we have to STOP treating people for the first time in the ER, we can't afford it anymore. its SO much more affordable - with far better results - to see a GP on a somewhat regular basis, and did I mention that its FAR less expensive then the current way we do things,

One small example on how we figure this thing out, There's a long way to go. It is clearly desperate that we need to start saving money on healthcare - due to the overall and trending -- shift in population dynamics -- over the next 30+ years we are going to have to be pretty danm streamlined and efficient due to the aging population. And sure we could make an other dent by taking away food programs that make sure desperately poor kids get a decent nutritional meal during school. And we can roll back consumer protections

I read in the new York times that there is 30-40% "fluff: in the system right...doctors getting paid by procedure, healthcare insurance execs, [and I don't just mean the upper tier, lots of money circulating] - a lot of it is commission (sad, if you think that one through) and pays phenomenally well for the performers in the commission contest - you know that one who saves the insurance company the most money ,, meanwhile a family just holding on has to go the bankruptcy route, and a lot of people who get screwed by the insurance industry are older! bankruptcy takes something like over 10 years to clear your record what if you are 64 and had a major hop issue. could easily lead to bankruptcy. very little in the way of new prospects that don't pay #8/hr....... ah, sleepin' in the old impala ain't so bad....

the 30-40% fluff has got you go. it is simply unsustainable, just look at the numbers and I believe you will see I see the truth # >stock price / other equity positions in the dark market. >dividends >executive pay from obviously the absolute top tier down -- but also many rungs down the ladder too, > plenty of :bonuses" to go around also...and, sweetheart (collusion in instances) relationships within the industry - a nexus of golf playing good old boys and gals "just trying to survive" and to make a few bucks. well, more then a few, a ton. but that's how people inherently work.

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Bob Smith 1 year ago

REALLY, ITS mind boggling IN scale - the HR/Customer service/ Billing MASSAIVE APPERATUS, etc....etc...etc... again, -- 'FLUFF" --- JUST THINK ABOUT HOW MUCH OFFICE SPACE THESE CMPANIES TAKE UP. and THE RESONE BEHIND ALL THIS MANOWER -- SO (GUESS) WHAT - THEY CAN FIGURE OUT HOW TO LEGALLY (NOT MORALLY) 'GLEAN THE SYSTEM' AND FIGURE OUT JUST HOW LITTLE THEY CAN PAY YOU ON YOUR CAIM..?! --> IMMORAL AND DIRTY INDUSTRY, IT SMELLS ROEETN. NEEDS TO GO ~~~~~~~ ADIOS!!!

RomneyCare ObamaCare ACA - whatever you call it, it certainly isn't perfect. but the main mission should be to eliminate the shameful wastes, where the numbers really kill us. I mean, so what if some crack addict schemes the system for a pack of smokes or even money(?) - for her food stamps - that makes no functional difference whatsoever. all of he alleged "fraud" amounts to hardly anything statistically noticeable. however, lust look at large scale investors / appreciation / dividends / etc.. and mid-high level executives (there are fast more then you'd guess!!) We could eliminate all of the fluff with a single payer system. done. THINK ABOUT THE MEDICARE / ,EDICADE BUDGET AND REDUCE IT MY 30%....WOW, NOW THAT'S REAL!!!

Buy seriously, back to healthcare for one comment, UNLESS we start turning people away at the emergency room door, where they can bleed to death or otherwise die in the alley way adjacent to the for profit hospital - everyone needs insurance, Show me a system where single payer isn't the most efficient and then sign me up, But you don't have any thoughts on the matter, do you. your too busy supporting ted cruise in his maneuvering to destroy the global reserve currently as the dollar. euro looks next in line (as a reserve currency replacement). -- and until recently I laughed at that prospect!!. But now the tea baggers have a small noisy minority that is willing to use terrorist tactics that more of their followers do no fully understand [the ramifications of] -- the loss of reserve currency status. Some would say that was the primary reason we went into Iraq.....[cruise] he's a punk who doesn't care, meanwhile everyone else is bracing for a much different lifestyle with the loss of reserve currency privileges'! teapubs control a slight majority in the HOR, due primarily to gerrymandering (shameful), but the congress if solidly democrat, as well as the executive, and the supreme court upheld ObamaCare......DON'T NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!!!!!!!

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year ago

The Tea Party members are terrorists. Really. And how many people have they murdered in the name of their cause. Wow, now that is commentary that brings rational thought to the conversation. John, I think this guy needs hula lessons.

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rhys jones 1 year ago

Have you missed me in this forum? My contribution will be brief.

Health care doesn't concern me. Veterans such as myself can enroll in VA health care, satisfying Obama. All routine services are 100% covered, few co-pays (I haven't seen any, even free drugs) down side you have to go to Grand Junction, nearest (or any) facility; up side, emergency services are 100% covered, anywhere, even YVMC.

Join the service, pay your dues, then don't worry about it. Hula that!!

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mark hartless 1 year ago

Ted Cruise is "manuvering to destroy the US Dollar"?

Dude, you're out of your mind.

The US Dollar was destroyed long before Ted Cruise was ever elected to anything. A dollar used to move my car 20 miles. Today, even with more efficient vehicles a dollar moves my car a maximum of about 7 miles. If you're stupid enough to ascribe that reality to one man named Ted Cruise then you are impaired beyond mortal restoration.

Simple minded people with no vision who live in a world of denial think ships sink when they disappear below the water-line.

More sensible people know they are sunk as soon as the iceberg rips the hole in the hull.

The policies people like Bob Smith have supported for decades (spend what you do not have and deny the ramifications) are what ripped the hull in this nations hull, NOT Ted Cruise.

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jerry carlton 1 year ago

Rhys I tried to enroll for VA care during one of my 4? month unemployments here. They told me I had too much money. Evidently you have to be a poor veteran to be worthy of healthcare. Does not really bother me since I am on medicare now but if they eliminate medicare, I guess I would care. Oh well, when they eliminate medicare ,VA care, veterans pensions, and social security will probably go too. I bet presidential and congressional medical care and retirement benefits do not dissappear. The ruling class must survive even if there is no one left to rule.

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John St Pierre 1 year ago

All I know is.....My full coverage went from $389 a month to $90 w a$1K deductable!!! Devastating I tell you ....Devastating!!!!!

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jerry carlton 1 year ago

John You now pay less than I do for Medicare and I expect Medicare will go up in Jan.

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