MONTROSE—(September 17, 2013) The office is spare, just a corner of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce building at 1519 East Main. When Connect for Health Colorado goes live in October, however, the local office will serve as the Montrose “nerve center” of a transition that brings new options for health care to all Coloradoans. Thanks to a 16-month grant obtained under the auspices of Volunteers of America, Connect for Health staffers Lynn Carretta and Alicia Plantz are already hard at work, preparing to assist local consumers with questions, guidance, and real information as the state and the nation prepare to implement a competitive market for health insurance.
“We start taking clients on Oct. 2,” Carretta said. “We are really focused on getting people through the enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 1 through March 31 this year, and from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 next year.”
Colorado is well positioned to take advantage of the new laws, thanks to the state’s efforts to create its own plan beginning in 2006, when health care costs were spiraling out of control. As the national legislation known as “Obamacare” is implemented, Coloradoans can turn to Connect for Health Colorado to compare information regarding cost and quality; shop health plan features containing the same base benefits; determine eligibility for and access to new federal, income-based financial assistance; call, chat or sit down with trained representatives for help; and enroll in a health plan.
There are things that Connect for Health Colorado does not do—the non-profit organization is not part of Medicare or Medicaid, does not replace current markets or brokers; engage in negotiating rates between carriers and providers, is not a new government health care system or state regulatory agency or body, and does not pull money from Colorado’s general fund.
“We really believe that this is a great opportunity for our community to become ensured,” Carretta said. “We know that some things will need fine-tuned, and we know that everybody is wanting access. We plan to figure this out with them, and as we start informing and educating people about the process, people will be more receptive and open.”
There has already been strong public interest, Plantz noted.
“People really want to go on and see what plans are available,” she said. “They have been very receptive to new information, and they are asking a lot of questions. Fear comes from not understanding what we are, what we offer, and what we are NOT.
“We are here to help you see what options you have before you turn them down.”
Among the goals of the program is to reach the “young invincibles,” Carretta said.
“One of our primary target markets is working and non-working people under age 40,” she said, “and we welcome the opportunity to speak to any group or organization. Individuals making between $15 and $45K will get a premium tax credit. There are plenty of ways we can help you—you can go to the web site, which will be up first– http://www.connectforhealthco.com/– or call 855-752-6749—there are hundreds of people manning the call center, ready to answer questions.”
All health plans sold to businesses and individuals inside or outside of Colorado must provide 10 essential health benefits: preventive and wellness care/chronic disease management; ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; treatment for mental health and substance abuse; prescription drugs; rehab services and devices; laboratory services; and pediatric services including oral and vision care.
Local insurance brokers who have been trained through Connect for Health will also be available to help through the Montrose office, Carretta said.
“The brokers will be certified,” Plantz said,” and free to the public like all of our services—no matter how many times you call.”
Small business owners with tax questions should plan to consult their broker or agent after Oct. 5, Carretta said.
“Brokers are anxious to help new and existing clients,” she said, “and Colorado will pay the costs of your agent.”
Both Carretta and Plantz commended the foresight of Volunteers of America for embracing the concept, and the community.
“VOA sponsored our grant,” Plantz said. “Without them, it would not happen. Now we are here for you, if anybody just wants to come and talk, and if you would like us to come to your meeting we are more than happy to do so.”
In the North Fork Valley, Maria Forster is the local contact, she added, and can be reached at 970-872-2233. Forster will be located in the Creamery Building in Hotchkiss.
“What we really want people to know is that under the new health care plan, in the State of Colorado, you will have more than 200 plans to choose from,” Carretta said. “Insurance companies will all provide the ten essential benefits, and they will be fighting for your dollar. Our state is a great place to be.”