DENVER (July 14, 2014) – At its annual meeting today, the Connect for Health Colorado® Board of Directors  unanimously elected Sharon O’Hara, Executive Vice President of the Colorado-Wyoming Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, as the new Chair. O’Hara has been a board member since 2013 and replaces outgoing Chair Gretchen Hammer, who will continue to serve on the Board.

Also re-elected unanimously were Arnold Salazar, Executive Director of Colorado Health Partnerships, as Vice Chair, and Mike Fallon, MD, an emergency physician at North Colorado Medical Center, as Board Secretary.

Other board members include Gretchen Hammer, Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved; Richard Betts, owner of ASAP Accounting & Payroll Inc.; Ellen Daehnick of Helliemae’s Handcrafted Caramels; Steve ErkenBrack, President of Rocky Mountain Health Plans; Eric Grossman, President & CEO of NextHealth Technologies; and Nathan Wilkes, founder of Headstorms, Inc. Ex-officio (non-voting) members are Susan Birch, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing; Kevin Patterson, Deputy Chief of Staff for Gov. John Hickenlooper; and Marguerite Salazar, Commissioner of Insurance.

In accepting the position, O’Hara praised her fellow board members for doing “six years of work in the past three years of its existence.”

“I’m proud of the success the Marketplace has had in expanding coverage for Coloradans. As we approach the next open enrollment this fall, we urge consumers to shop the new plans and rates and look for options that best fit your needs, whether you are renewing or signing up for the first time,” says O’Hara.

“We’re thankful to have someone like Sharon, who has so much experience in helping Coloradans access healthcare, take on leadership of our Board as we head into this very important next chapter and second open enrollment period,” says Connect for Health Colorado Chief Operating Officer Lindy Hinman. “Sharon has demonstrated a deep commitment to our mission of improving access, choice and affordability for Coloradans in need of health insurance.”

The Staff and Board also praised Hammer’s service.

“We’ve been so fortunate to have had Gretchen Hammer take a lead for our state as it tackled some very complicated healthcare challenges. She was instrumental in the early formation and development of the Marketplace, and helped set a very high standard for the organization as our first Board Chair,” says Connect for Health Chief Executive Officer Patty Fontneau.  “I’m thrilled Gretchen will continue to serve and remains so dedicated to the ongoing success of Connect for Health Colorado.”

Hammer steps down after three years as Chair and following a successful Oct. 1, 2013 launch of the Marketplace, which has helped more than 140,000 Coloradans enroll for private health insurance.

About Connect for Health Colorado:
Through state laws, Connect for Health Colorado was established as a non-profit organization with a Colorado mission to improve choice, access and affordability to private health insurance.  Just 18 months after hiring technology vendors, Colorado’s own health insurance Marketplace opened October 1, 2013, with a full shopping website and a statewide network of trained and certified experts to help customers.
1-855-PLANS-4-You (855-752-6749)

On Monday, the Board approved a budget and carrier fee for the coming year, allowing Connect for Health Colorado to serve more Coloradans who need health insurance and be financially sustainable. The Board vote is the result of many detailed budget discussions during which Board members advised staff to identify efficiencies and ensure strong financial management. The process also included input from many stakeholders, including three that testified at the board meeting on Monday: the Colorado Health Foundation, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. Under the Board’s leadership, Connect for Health Colorado is one of the most successful and financially secure state-based health insurance marketplaces in the nation. Since opening October 1, 2013, we have helped over 135,000 Coloradans enroll in commercial health insurance, and contributed to the enrollment of over 180,000 Coloradans into Medicaid. Our budget, staff and fees are among the lowest in the nation. Our sustainability model allows us to be financially independent using short-term transitional funds and enrollment-based revenue. The Board has served a crucial role in our success.  Monday’s meeting was the 67th full Board meeting since the organization was established and Board members were appointed in summer 2011, per Senate Bill 11-200. Some Board members have moved on and new members have been appointed. Most have been serving for nearly three years, also participating in over 50 Committee meetings to discuss policy, finance and operational matters and to set the direction for the Marketplace. We have more work ahead of us and I ask that you join me in thanking the Board for their continued commitment and service.

Patty Fontneau, CEO

Charting a Strong Path Forward: A Message from CEO Patty Fontneau

More than 131,000 Coloradans have now signed up for private health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado. While open enrollment is now closed, our team remains very busy helping the many people in our state who are still eligible to get health insurance. We’re also continuing to make improvements to our technology as we plan and prepare for the next open enrollment period and beyond.

There has been a good deal of discussion and media coverage regarding the financial health and future of our Marketplace.

I want to be clear: Connect for Health Colorado is one of the most financially secure marketplaces in the nation.  We have a solid plan that moves us to become self-sustaining by January 2015, when our federal start-up grants supporting operations will be gone.

This financial model is a diverse funding approach approved by our Board of Directors and supported by the State Legislature in 2013.

The plan enables us to go from building and launching our Marketplace, to serving increasing numbers of Coloradans during the transition from federal grants, by using an existing broad assessment and other funding.  It ensures we are fiscally secure and have a diverse revenue base as we move forward. Each piece of our fiscal model is important:

  • Use federal grants to support creating, building, launching, enhancing, maintaining and operating the new Marketplace for Coloradans. These grant funds are only partially spent; they continue to be available to us for the last piece of technology build until June 30, 2015, the end of our next fiscal year.
  • Make use of legislation passed in 2013 (HB13-1245) that allows Connect for Health Colorado to access existing funding used to support CoverColorado –insurance for  people who could not get coverage because of pre-existing conditions. (CoverColorado is closing in 2014.) The “high risk pool” fund was created in 2001 by charging insurance companies a monthly per-policy amount – a broad-based assessment that reached as high as $3.75 per policy per month.  The new law allows Connect for Health Colorado to set the assessment only between $0 and $1.80, and use it only through 2016. Insurance companies have paid this for 13 years and at much higher rates; the Marketplace did not charge the allowed assessment in 2014 because other funding was sufficient.
  • The legislation also allows Connect for Health Colorado to evaluate other products that make sense to our customers and markets, accept health carrier tax donations and apply for  foundation grants.
  • Establish a small administrative fee on all products purchased through the Marketplace.  For 2014 and 2015 it was set at 1.4%, the lowest in the country among Marketplaces using an administrative fee. This includes all 36 states using the federal Marketplace, which charges 3.5%. (Some marketplaces are funded by their state taxpayers. Connect for Health Colorado receives nothing from our state General Fund.)
  • Combining the temporary broad assessment (at its highest level) on insurance companies and the permanent administrative fee on Marketplace products still makes our average total administrative fee the lowest in the country for states using an administrative fee. Again, a few state Marketplaces are funded through their state general fund, which is not available to Colorado.

As a public non-profit, we’ve been transparent about the roadmap we’ve set to reaching our  goals and continuing to meet our mission to improve access, choice and affordability of health insurance for Coloradans.

We are operating below budget and, compared with the six most comparably sized state Marketplaces, our budget is dramatically lower and our staffing numbers the leanest.

We’ve worked hard to be one of the most sustainable state marketplaces, and we’re extremely proud of the tremendous success in expanding coverage and keeping fees low. We thank our many partners for their hard work and support and look forward to serving Coloradans for many more years.

Patty Fontneau, CEO

Preparing for a Key Stretch in Enrollment: A Message from CEO Patty Fontneau

I have often reminded people that the launch of Connect for Health Colorado is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, with March here, we are quickly coming to the end of the first enrollment period – a first mile-marker in the journey to getting Coloradans covered.

There are just 31 days left for most Coloradans to buy private health insurance for 2014! (The only exceptions will be those who have a life-change event, such as job loss, that causes them to lose their health plan after March).

Our final push to March 31 is focused on reaching as many of the uninsured as possible to help them meet the deadline and access cost-reductions.

  • We are staffing up our Customer Service Center in anticipation of a surge of people seeking their health plans before time runs out.
  • Throughout the month, Connect for Health Colorado certified brokers and Health Coverage Guides will host dozens of public and private events across the state to help people enroll.  Look for our colorful Connect for Health Colorado RV and specialized campaigns.
    This weekend alone public enrollment events are taking place in Craig, Lafayette, Montrose and Steamboat Springs. And we’ll be at the inaugural Entravision Feria de la Salud Health Fair Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium in Denver. You can find our growing list of March enrollment events on our website.
  • We will be opening a walk-in location soon on the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver for free in-person help from certified brokers and Health Coverage Guides. Check our website for more details.

We’ve seen great success so far. More than 1 million people have come to our website and close to 85,000 Coloradans have signed up for coverage. Recent reports put Colorado in the top-four of state-based marketplaces for enrollments. Just over half of our enrollees qualified for tax credits and financial assistance to reduce their costs.

We look forward to serving many more and hope you’ll be involved too. If you know people who need health insurance for 2014, encourage them to go to Connect for Health Colorado to shop, compare and see what they might save.

Reach us online at; call our Customer Service Center at 855-PLANS-4-YOU(855-752-6749); or find a certified broker or Health Coverage Guide for personalized support.

January Marketplace Update: A Message from CEO Patty Fontneau

The New Year has been busy at Connect for Health Colorado. Here’s a re-cap of the month’s highlights as we close out January.

  • Shopping and enrollment activity continued at a steady pace during January. In January, an additional 25,000 accounts were created and 16,000 Coloradans signed up for private health insurance coverage – for a total of over 69,000 sign-ups since the Marketplace opened on October 1, 2013. We continue to exceed our preliminary projections for coverage year 2014.
  • Many carriers offering plans through our Marketplace chose to extend payment deadlines for customers who signed up for January 1 coverage, due to the extension of the sign-up deadlines in December. We have worked closely with our carrier partners to support customers through the final steps of enrollment.
  • Connect for Health Colorado submitted its 2013 Annual Report to the Colorado General Assembly and Governor’s Office on January 15, as required by Senate Bill 11-200. Board Chair Gretchen Hammer and I testified to the Joint Legislative Health Committee about our 2013 activities at a January 23 meeting at the Capitol.
  • The Board and the Legislative Health Benefit Exchange Implementation Review Committee approved our Operational Plan, which includes a framework for continued enhancements of the technology and customer service operations and a financial sustainability approach for future years. The financial model confirms that the Marketplace will be self-sustaining in 2015 and beyond.
  • A new outreach and marketing push has begun across the state, including new television spots featuring actual customers who have saved money on their health insurance, to encourage Coloradans to get covered and not wait to the last minute. Current messaging focuses on the February 15 deadline for March 1 coverage. Open enrollment ends March 31. Enrollment events are being scheduled across the state for February and March. Please send your ideas for enrollment and outreach events to us at [email protected].

Thank you for your support and let us know how we can partner with you to support our new customers and to get more Coloradans covered. And GO BRONCOS!!

Enrollment Update: A Message from CEO Patty Fontneau

Happy Holidays! As we get closer to the New Year, we wanted to provide an update about enrollment steps and timelines. We encourage you to continue to check our Enrollment Updates web page for the latest information.

  • To accommodate the last-minute rush of customers seeking January 1, 2014 coverage, we extended the deadline for completing the sign-up process to the end of today (December 27). We appreciate the additional work and commitment of our partners, carriers and Customer Service Center representatives to provide this service.
  • Enrollment data is being transferred daily to carriers, so customers can check with their carriers to confirm your enrollment. It can take up to 2 business days for enrollment information to appear in the carrier’s computer systems after signing up. It can take up to 10 days for the carrier to send invoices.
  • Customers who signed up between December 24 and December 27 will see a February 1, 2014 effective date for their plans in their account. The account information will be corrected next week to show the January 1, 2014 effective date for plans. The correct effective date is being sent to carriers.
  • Customers need to pay their first month’s premium to carriers to finalize their coverage. The deadline for customers to submit their first month’s premium payment (for January 1 coverage) is January 10, 2014. We encourage customers to send in their payments as early as possible. Customers who access medical care after January 1 but have not paid their premium yet may need to pay for the services and then submit a claim after their payment is received.
  • The next deadline for coverage is January 15, 2014. Coloradans who sign up by January 15 will get coverage on February 1, 2014. Open enrollment continues until March 31, 2014.

Thank you to all of our partners for all of your support in helping us reach our goal of increasing access, affordability and choice for Coloradans seeking health insurance. We look forward to 2014 and helping more Coloradans get covered.

Enrollment Update: A Message from CEO Patty Fontneau

Happy Holidays! We are in our final push to enroll customers who want their coverage starting January 1, 2014. It is a busy time and we are working hard, in partnership with carriers and other partners, to ensure that your coverage will be in place.

  • December 23 (Monday) is the deadline for signing up for health insurance that starts January 1, 2014. We strongly encourage customers who want the advance premium tax credit to apply by tonight to allow time for processing. Those who miss the deadline can still sign up for coverage until March 31, 2014.
  • Customers who have signed up for health insurance are receiving invoices from their carriers. Customers who haven’t already received invoices should receive them within the next week. Enrollment data is being transferred daily to carriers, so you can check with your carrier to confirm your enrollment.
  • Customers applying for an individual/family policy have until January 10, 2014, to make their first month’s premium payment. We encourage you to pay earlier. SHOP customers should speak to their agent/broker for enrollment deadlines and assistance.
  • We’ve extended hours at the Customer Service Center to accommodate more customers. Representatives are available today and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday and 7 a.m. to midnight on Monday, Dec. 23. The toll-free number is 1-855-PLANS-4-YOU (855-752-6749). Volumes remain high and we recommend that you call early in the morning or in the evening.
  • We are working with our State partners to get all of our customers through the financial assistance application process in time for January 1 coverage. However, in the event that any of our customers who applied for financial assistance by December 23 don’t receive their Medicaid determination, they can purchase health insurance and pay the first month’s premium and then get the tax credit applied to the rest of 2014 payments after receiving the Medicaid denial.
  • Coloradans can also purchase health insurance until December 23 without applying for financial assistance and receive the tax credit, if eligible, when they file taxes in 2015.
  • The federal government announced Thursday night that customers who have received cancellation notices have more options for accessing coverage and avoiding a federal fee for not having health insurance in 2014. You can get more information about the current process for receiving an exemption here. Here in Colorado, we are working with insurance carriers and State partners to review the new information and implement any changes, if necessary, to how we help Coloradans access health insurance. We will provide more information to our customers in the coming weeks.


Information for Completing Enrollments for the New Year: A Message from CEO Patty Fontneau

We have entered our busiest enrollment period and are excited to report a record pace of enrollments this week as more Coloradans are coming to the Marketplace to sign up for health insurance. We exceeded 1,000 enrollments on Wednesday and Thursday and expect to stay busy for the coming weeks. Here’s information for customers to help them complete their payments and get their insurance cards for January 1, 2014 coverage.

  • Customers who signed up for health insurance and haven’t already received invoices should receive invoices from carriers within the next 2 weeks. We expect to complete the transfer of all enrollment data to carriers by Monday.
  • Follow-up communication about eligibility and enrollment are continuing to go to customers starting this week.
  • Customers have until December 23, 2013 to complete the sign-up process for health insurance if they want January 1 coverage. Those who miss that deadline can sign up until March 31, 2014.
  • The deadline for customers to submit their first month’s premium payment (for January 1 coverage) has been extended to January 10, 2014. We still encourage customers to send in their payments as early as possible. We’ll provide more details in the coming days on this process.
  • The Customer Service Center is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The toll-free number is 1-855-PLANS-4-YOU (855-752-6749).
  • To accommodate more customers, the Customer Service Center will be open for the next three Sundays (December 8, 15 and 22) from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Mondays and Tuesdays are the busiest days at the Customer Service Center. Generally, the best times to call the Customer Service Center are 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • You can connect with local assistance resources in your community during our statewide Holiday Connect to Coverage Campaign. Yesterday, our RV traveled to Fort Morgan and Greeley and today we’re in Fort Collins and Loveland. You can see where we will be here.
  • You can find local in-person assistance from certified Health Coverage Guides and Certified Agents/Brokers on our website or through our free Android mobile app.

We are working continuously to improve our operations and customer service. Thank you again for your support and please let us know how we can support you in getting Coloradans covered.

An Exciting Start to the Holiday Season: A Message from CEO Patty Fontneau

I wish you and your loved ones a wonderful Thanksgiving and am pleased to let you know about a number of new developments as we enter the holiday season.

  • Open enrollment has been extended to December 23 for Coloradans who want their health insurance to start January 1, 2014. The full open enrollment period continues until March 31, 2014. We’re working with carriers and partners on operational plans, including deadlines for premium payments and will let you know as soon as possible.
  • Our mobile app is now available for download on Android devices at Google Play. The Connect for Health Colorado app is a dynamic tool to help you consider your health insurance options. You can find in-person assistance in your community, browse plans and save your favorite on your phone or share it by email, and use our tax credit calculator to get an estimate of your potential financial help to reduce the cost of insurance. The iOs app for iPhones will be available in mid-December.
  • This Sunday, December 1, five local churches will host Enrollment Sunday outreach events in partnership with our Assistance Sites to encourage Coloradans to sign up for health insurance. This is part of an ongoing partnership with religious organizations to educate Coloradans about the value of health insurance and the new options available to them. More information is available here.
  • On Cyber Monday, remember to shop for health insurance while you’re shopping for gifts. Give you and your family the gift of health insurance to start the New Year off right!
  • The Holiday Connect to Coverage Campaign starts December 5! We’ll be driving a 24-foot RV, wrapped with our brand, across Colorado for more than a week, with stops on the eastern plains, Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland, Grand Junction, Durango, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Lakewood and Denver. As a key partner, King Soopers is providing the opportunity for us to conduct outreach inside grocery stores during the holiday enrollment campaign, which will include giveaways of King Soopers gift cards. Check our Tour Schedule to see when we will be in your area.

We continue to focus on maximizing coverage and welcome your partnership in those efforts. As always, please let us know how we’re doing and how we can improve our customer support. And we look forward to seeing you during our holiday enrollment campaign.

Eventful Week

It was another busy week at Connect for Health Colorado and with announcements from Washington DC. Here’s a quick recap:

  • At Monday’s Board meeting, the Board discussed the financial assistance application process and the steps that are being taken with our State partners to make the process quicker for our customers. The Board also received an update about the sales strategy.
  • On Wednesday, we issued a press release promoting our open enrollment outreach and marketing campaign. There has been a lot of confusion about our connection to the Got Insurance campaign that was created by two Colorado organizations. Connect for Health Colorado was not involved with that initiative.
  • Also Wednesday, the federal government issued a report about enrollments at the federal marketplace and the state-based marketplaces, including Colorado. Colorado’s private health insurance enrollment figures for the period between October 1 and November 2 places us in a similar situation to the other state-based marketplaces.  We issued a joint statement about the report with our partners at Health Care Policy and Financing.
  • Thursday, President Obama announced that people who received cancellation notices for individual and small group plans can keep their coverage for a year. Here is Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar’s statement about this development. We will work closely with DOI, our carriers and other partners to make any necessary adjustments and to provide a quality service to Coloradans who need health insurance.

Look for new metrics early next week. We are intensifying outreach efforts during this next month as we push to maximize enrollments for the January 1, 2014 effective date. Thanks again for your support and partnership.