March 31 deadline looms for uninsured Moffat, Routt County residents
March 18, 2014
Northwest Colorado insurance numbers
Estimated uninsured residents in 2012
Moffat County: 2,569
Routt County: 3,458
Source: 2008-12 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey
Residents who have registered for insurance through Connect for Health Colorado since Oct. 1
Moffat County: 142
Routt County: 967
Residents who have registered for Medicaid since Oct. 1
Moffat County: 415
Routt County: 596
The deadline to apply for insurance coverage through Connect for Health Colorado or other insurance providers is March 31.
Craig — The end of the month marks a date that, if ignored, could have significant repercussions for people all across the country.
March 31 is the deadline to register for health insurance, which, for residents of the Centennial State, can mean going through the Connect for Health Colorado marketplace if you don't already have coverage.
Data collected from 2008 to 2012 by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey shows 19 percent of Moffat County’s populace and 15 percent of Routt County’s population were uninsured, which translates to an estimated 2,569 residents for Moffat and 3,458 for Routt.
Connect for Health Colorado recently released statistics stating more than 100,000 people in the state have registered with their marketplace, but those details also relay that the six-digit number includes 142 people from Moffat County and 967 from Routt who signed up between Oct. 1 and March 8.
The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing shows an increased number of eligible people enrolling for Medicaid in the state — 415 for Moffat and 596 for Routt. Medicaid is available to Colorado residents at less than 138 percent of the poverty level.
With more than 6,000 people uninsured between the two counties in 2012, and about 2,100 now covered, the question remains whether nearly 4,000 Northwest Colorado residents have sought out their own unique plans through insurance companies or have opted to do nothing.
Part of it simply has to do with the perception that health insurance is a luxury, said Erin Gleason, community and small business health insurance coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
She added the difficulty that comes with the nature of insurance is it doesn't seem necessary until you actually need it.
"If we could all just get it whenever we wanted to, we'd only have it when we were sick or when something was wrong with us," she said. "Unfortunately, it can't exist if you only put in a little bit of money and take out a lot of money."
Subsidies for those who register through Connect for Health can cover a large portion of the cost of an insurance policy — providing they qualify.
A single individual must have an annual income of less than $45,960 and be ineligible for Medicare benefits, as well as not have coverage available through their job. If married — which raises the maximum yearly income to $62,040 — they also must be unable to receive coverage from their spouse's employer.
For each person in a family, the income level is raised by $16,080.
The tax credits that come from this status can be used to lower the monthly cost of a health plan from Connect for Health. About 58 percent of the customers use the advance tax credits, and in some instances, it can account for as much as two-thirds of premium costs.
"It dramatically reduces the cost of what they might have been used to," Gleason said. "We're hoping it means they'll actually go and see a doctor and take care of some of the issues that were piling up."
However, those who don't qualify still can find themselves responsible for a big payment, Gleason said.
One of the reasons for that is Moffat and Routt, as well as most counties on the Western Slope, are part of Geographical Rating Area 10, which is determined by state demographics such as available providers and the amount of coverage an insurer has in the area.
Isolation in the region and a limited number of medical options lead to higher prices, Gleason said.
"It really affects rural counties," she said.
Gleason added that Area 11, encompassing Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Summit counties, has "the highest prices in the whole country."
A press release from Colorado Division of Insurance said those who can afford coverage and have not yet purchased a plan through Connect for Health or directly from an insurance company — or already have the benefits covered by a plan through work or Medicare benefits — by March 31 face the "tax liability" of $95 or 1 percent of their yearly household income, whichever is greater.
More importantly, those who remain uninsured after the deadline will go months before being able to get coverage, Gleason said.
"A lot of people don't seem to understand that," she said.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.