Open enrollment for Connect for Health begins Wednesday; Steamboat area organizations offer assistance with sign-up | SteamboatToday.com

Open enrollment for Connect for Health begins Wednesday; Steamboat area organizations offer assistance with sign-up

Open enrollment begins Wednesday, and runs through Jan. 12. UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center offers help to Routt County residents.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Connect for Health Colorado, the state's health insurance marketplace, opens Wednesday, there are organizations in Routt County ready to help people navigate the process of signing up for health care insurance.

"The open enrollment period and going through Connect for Health is the only way you can access financial assistance," said Krystin Beadling, financial case coordinator for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. "These financial aid programs, such as tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, actually reduce the cost based on your income. They make health insurance affordable to people who probably could not afford it on their own."

Beadling is hoping to help Routt County residents find an insurance plan that fits their needs.

"Some of the main reasons to go through Connect for Health is that all of the policies are guaranteed to provide the 10 essential health benefits that some other plans might not have," Beadling said. "Of course, you avoid the tax penalty by enrolling in these plans. All the plans offer comprehensive coverage that includes maternity services, prescription coverage, ambulatory services and that kind of stuff."

Beadling said the open enrollment period is shorter this year, lasting only six weeks. People must complete the process by Dec. 15 to have insurance in January. The enrollment period will end Jan. 12, 2018, but people waiting until then will not have insurance before February.

Federal cutbacks have all but eliminated advertising designed to let people know about the open enrollment process, so organizations such as Yampa Valley Medical Center, Northwest Colorado Health and Connect for Colorado are doing their best to help spread the word.

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Beadling understands the open enrollment process can be a bit intimidating and confusing. Anthem is the single provider in Routt County, but Beadling said there are a number of different plans to choose from ranging in price and coverage.

Those who want help will open enrollment may request an appointment with Beadling by emailing  yvmc-fc@uchealth.org. They should include full legal names for everyone in the household, a preferred phone number and a short summary of their household circumstances including any grant or scholarship information, SSI, SSDI and unemployment income information. This information will allow Beadling to evaluate each case and then respond with options for appointments.

In preparation for the appointment, people should be prepared to provide a gross income estimate for 2018, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for everyone in the household, preferred health care providers and a list of medications. It would also be helpful, but not mandatory, if they have set up an account with Connect for Health.

Ken Davis of the Northwest Colorado Health Partnerships said people should not let what they are hearing at the federal level keep them from pursuing insurance through the exchange.

"People are hearing about these high, high increases to the health insurance premiums," Davis said. "If people qualify for subsidized premiums, they pay only what they can pay. They are not the ones that are going to be impacted by these health insurance premiums. The people who are going to be impacted by these increases in health insurance premiums are those who are not eligible for any of those subsidized tax breaks for purchasing health insurance."

In addition to seeking help from Yampa Valley Medical Center, people can also contact Northwest Colorado Health's eligibility office at 970-871-7330, and there are local health insurance brokers available to help with health insurance questions as well.

This is the fifth open enrollment session since the Affordable Care Act was established. Davis said one of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking they are not eligible for subsidies. Eligibility starts at $47,000 for individuals, and a family of four can make up to $97,000 a year and still qualify for some level of assistance.

Luke Clarke, director of communications for Connect for Health, said 1,938 Routt County residents enrolled through Connect for Health Colorado during the last open enrollment period.

Among households that qualified for the advance premium tax credit, the average household benefit was $613 a month, which was one of the highest in the state. But Clarke added that premiums here are also among the highest in Colorado.

For more information about Connect for Health Colorado, visit connectforhealthco.com.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

Organizations ready to help 

  • Northwest Colorado Health Insurance, LLC. (http://www.nwcohi.com) 970-846-6384
  • Steamboat Select Insurance Group (steamboatselectins.com) 970-879-1363
  • Steamboat Financial, LLC 970-879-8188
  • John Kelly 970-761-5186
  • Kerry Lynch 970-871-9378
  • Western Slope Health Insurance, LLC. 970-824-1045
  • UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical (YVMC-FC@uchealth.org.) 970-879-1322
  • Northwest Colorado Health 970-871-7330

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