WASHINGTON — Colorado’s health exchange missed by a significant margin its goal to sign up enough participants to make the program financially viable.
Preliminary figures released Tuesday suggest enrollment was five percent below even the lowest estimate provided by Connect for Health Colorado — a total of 118,628 people had signed up for health policies through the state-based marketplace.
Lawmakers from both parties said they needed to know more details about the state and federal figures released this week before commenting on their significance.
“As important, if not more important, is what’s underneath the numbers — the number of those who are young, the percentage of those who were insured but had their policies cancelled,” said Republican Rep. Mike Coffman.
President Barack Obama held a press conference on the west side of the Capitol attended by scores of Democratic lawmakers, to cheer his administration’s report that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health insurance.
However, in a September 2009 speech to Congress, Obama said his signature health care law would provide insurance to the “more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage.”
Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn said many questions about the impact of Obamacare remain unanswered, including the effects on businesses that must now provide plans or be fined.
“We won’t know yet until the bulk of people in the country have been affected, especially the corporations that have been affected,” Lamborn said.
Key details of the enrollment figures have not been released to indicate how many consumers purchased the plan because their previous policy was cancelled due to new Obamacare rules. Nor have federal officials provided the breakdown of the enrollment figures by age, a vital component to Obamacare’s success.
Connect for Health Colorado CEO Patty Fontneau did not return a message for comment by press time.
State officials hoped the marketplace would reduce the ranks of the 700,000 Coloradans without health insurance, but they encountered a problem even before it went online last fall.
As the Observer revealed in September, hundreds of thousands of Coloradans had their policies canceled because they did not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.
State officials acknowledged that 337,241 Coloradans received the “drop” letters. After pressure from Colorado Sen. Mark Udall’s office, state officials said most of those receiving cancellation notices were offered new plans, albeit with mostly higher premiums.
Connect for Health officials also touted two recent developments — more than 33,000 Coloradans signed up during March – almost twice as many that had enrolled from October to February.
Additionally, another 177,000 Coloradans signed up for Medicaid, the joint federal-state medical insurance program for the poor and the disabled.
Colorado is one of 14 states with its own health-plan exchange or marketplace. In June 2011, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed SB 11-200 into law, creating the exchange.