Connect for Health Colorado is a health insurance marketplace designed just for Colorado. Our shopping website is built on technology and operations that are separate from the federal health insurance marketplace, healthcare.gov. In their own words, here are stories from just a few of the Coloradans who have enrolled through our Marketplace:
Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, in January 2014, I was paying around $450 a month for a health insurance plan with a $5,000 deductible. Although my premium was pretty high I was managing. But a few months ago my insurance company informed me they would be raising my monthly premium to almost $600 a month!
After I found out my premiums were increasing, my neighbor suggested I research my options and gave me some info on Connect for Health Colorado – I contacted an assistance site in my hometown and went in and sat down to have a free in-person appointment where health coverage guides explained what kind of generous financial assistance I qualified for and how to go about taking advantage of it. Guides helped me research and select a plan that fit my income parameters and succeeded my health insurance needs and even provided better benefits than my previous plan offered.
The online process to sign up for insurance was pretty intimidating but luckily guides helped me through the process from start to finish and I now pay less than $200 a month for a better plan than I had before! I am a recently windowed individual, now on a fixed income, and Connect for Health Colorado greatly improved my situation.
I am now saving almost $400 a month in premium costs with better coverage and a lower deductible. I would recommend that everyone should go in and sit down with a trained guide to become educated and find out what is available to them.
Meet Tom from Aspen
I am extremely pleased with my new Connect for Health Colorado health plan. Having a good health plan is very important to me and should be to every person in the U.S. My new employer didn’t offer a health plan, so I was left on my own to obtain coverage. Having a modest income , all I could afford before 2014, was an unsatisfactory catastrophic insurance plan with a $10,000 deductible. Through the guidance of my incredible broker, Brad Niederman of Niederman Insurance Agency, I was able to obtain great health insurance. Not only did Brad find a great policy for me, he went above and beyond to help with the entire process of signing up through C4HC. Without Brad’s help, I don’t think I could have successfully navigated through the process. I now have a much broader and better plan with only 2/3 of the premium cost of my old plan. Thank you very much Brad and C4HC for making my life feel a little more secure with a quality and affordable health plan.
Sixty-three years old and retired, Barb wanted to purchase high quality health insurance that complies with the new law. Because Barb does not have a computer, she sought out information from a variety of sources. After receiving some information from AARP, Barb called the toll-free Customer Service Center for Connect for Health Colorado. While she got some of her questions answered, Barb realized with something as important as her health insurance, she wanted to speak to someone in person. While reading a story in the local paper, Barb learned about a local Assistance Network site. The article listed a phone number. Barb made the call and was relieved to be able to set up an appointment to meet in person with someone who could assist her, at no cost, in researching, shopping, and finally purchasing the best health insurance plan for her, one that included Barb’s doctor.
According to Barb, “Ali was just wonderful, very professional. She explained the whole process to me, encouraged me to check with my doctor to make sure he was in the network of the plan we were looking at. She helped me through the entire process, and I now have high-quality insurance. Finding the right health insurance was intimidating for me, but Ali made all the difference. ”
When I asked about the quality of her plan Barb replied, “I was able to purchase an exceptional plan, much better than the plan I had previously, and actually saved money on my monthly rate.”
Meet Kathy and Vaughn Clark from Cortez
My name is Kathy, and my husband and I live in Cortez. For twenty years we didn’t worry much about health insurance because as a teacher, we had access to good coverage at an affordable price. When I retired, I could have opted to continue using the same insurance, but paying for it without the school’s assistance was prohibitive. Therefore, I shopped for coverage in the private sector and found myself paying quite a hefty monthly premium. My husband’s coverage was so costly, in fact, that two years ago, he let it lapse because we couldn’t afford the exorbitant premiums of $600 a month. I managed to continue to make my $325 monthly payments.
Last November, my insurance company notified me that my health plan was being discontinued, but they offered a similar plan for over $600. At that point I logged on to Connect for Health and looked around. I didn’t think we’d qualify for assistance, so the health plans I found for my husband and me were upwards of $1200 a month. Frustrated, I figured I’d worry about it later. In December, I gave the website another shot with similar results.
Then a couple of things happened that pointed me in the direction of The Piñon Project. The Cortez Journal ran an article about The Piñon Project offering help navigating the quirks of finding affordable health insurance, and shortly thereafter, I noticed on the Connect for Health website the phone number for in person assistance. I called and set up an appointment with Jon Parker. We met with Jon and were immediately impressed with his friendly manner and understanding of the entire process. Over the next couple of meetings, John untangled the mess I’d made on the website, and helped us find the affordable coverage that had eluded me when I had searched on my own. As of March 1st, both of us have health and dental insurance for monthly premiums less than I was previously paying just for myself! John’s help made all the difference, and we are deeply grateful.
Meet Anna from Hotchkiss
Previously uninsured, Anna dreaded signing up health insurance. “I was so happy to find a health coverage guide right in Hotchkiss! I loved working with her, she made it happen so quickly and easily. The guide was able to answer my questions and explain what things on the application meant. I am now covered and can’t thank Maria (health coverage guide) enough for helping me.”
Meet Melvin Martin from Aurora
Melvin, who was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago, went four years without coverage. According to Melvin, “I would try over the counter medications. I would try to take care of myself. For a diabetic that is not a good practice. Insurance is really important to me. Since my dad died — although his death would have been inevitable– I have always been of the opinion that if we had insurance, his life would have been prolonged.”
He was researching health insurance options for himself and the nine employees at the school where he works when a parent of one of his pupils suggested he go to Connect for Health Colorado. Marvin looked at all the different plans and found out that it was not as expensive as he had thought. When we asked Marvin what the experience was like for him, he replied, “Connect for Health Colorado has really been a good friend of mine.” Now Marvin, his wife and their two children are covered.
Meet the LaJoy Family from the western slope
Cindy and Dominck LaJoy own and operate several family businesses in Montrose and health care is important to them and their five children. According to Cindy, “The recent changes in health care offerings were quite confusing and left us concerned about what would be the best options for our large family.”
Cindy is pretty tech savvy and spent a good deal of time researching the best options and pricing plans on the individual market. Ultimately, Cindy decided to seek the advice of a certified broker. She looked to her hometown agents and called the Watson Insurance Agency, who has several brokers/agents who are certified by Connect for Health Colorado to assist customers in enrolling and qualifying for financial assistance. Accordingly to Cindy, “I knew we needed professional advice, and I turned to Watson Insurance Agency. They met with us personally, at no cost, and offered suggestions that led us to savings of almost $600 per month.”
Meet Craig of Grand Junction, CO
“One little misstep, just breaking my leg, and all of a sudden I could have been very far into debt,” adds the Grand Junction computer science major, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in May. “I looked before, but it was over $200 a month,” too expensive while works as a full-time restaurant server and finishes college.
After a colleague last year was diagnosed with cancer and faced tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, it hit home: “I’m not protected at all.”
Knowing changes in health insurance were coming for 2014, Craig went online. He was redirected from the federal web site to Connect for Health Colorado “and it was fairly easy to do what I needed to do. It was laid out pretty well on the site.”
He qualified for $169 per month tax credit – “which is huge” – plus a cost-savings reduction for a silver-level health plan that drops his insurance to $59 a month. Coverage kicked in January 1st. “I feel better,” Craig says. And his grandfather? “He’s pretty delighted.”
Meet Dede of Denver
“It’s a lifeline,” says Dede about the new health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. Since going into business for herself as a Denver-based event promoter and organizer, Dede says finding adequate, affordable insurance has been challenging due to “pre-existing conditions” that insurance companies won’t cover.
Her partner also recently left a corporate job to be self-employed and is in a similar situation. Their COBRA health insurance coverage expired in November. “I just turned 60,” Dede says. “I’m pretty darn healthy, but we’ve both been turned down for pre-existing conditions.”
All that changes in January when no one can be denied coverage based on their health history. Dede “went on right away” to the Connect for Health Colorado website when it launched in October and began her search.
“It was pretty easy to navigate,” she says. Formerly, Dede and her partner were each paying about $700 a month for their insurance. Dede found a plan for $400 with Kaiser, saving about $300 a month. Her partner chose a UnitedHealthcare plan that had her doctors in its network, saving her about $240 a month.
She actively encourages friends to check out Connect for Health Colorado. “I think people are still confused and think they’ll be going to the (federal) Healthcare.gov site” instead of Colorado’s marketplace, Dede says. “Once it takes off and everybody gets hooked in, nobody is going to want to get rid of it.”
Meet Cathy of Montrose, Colo.
My name is Cathy. My husband is a self-employed general contractor in Montrose, Colo. Our insurance rates have tripled in the last ten years and forced us to raise our deductible to $10,000.00. Our current premium is almost $900.00 a month. We have had to meet the deductible the past three years, which has regretfully cut into our retirement.
We made an appointment with Lynn Caretta at Connect for Health Colorado. We had to be denied for Medicaid to start the process. That was done and confirmed in their office within about 15 minutes. Lynn then asked some basic questions, nothing to do with our past medical history. I guess the main question was our projected income for 2014. Within the hour we had several options for our new health plan, all of which were extremely better than our current plan. After some deliberation the plan we chose will save us approximately $600.00 per month and lower our deductible to $2,500.00.
Needless to say we were thrilled with the results. It was a very simple and smooth process. I would recommend everyone to contact Connect for Health Colorado and start 2014 with the comfort of knowing you have health insurance at an affordable rate.
Meet Shirley of Center, Colo.
After 35 years of teaching elementary and middle school students, Shirley, 57, of Center, CO, decided to retire after the 2013 school year so she could spend more time with her family and grandkids. “Immediately, I thought of insurance – the district had been paying for it. I was totally stressed about being insured.”
She qualified for a COBRA plan for 18 months with her school district, but it was expensive. After her daughter told Shirley about a certified Health Coverage Guide at Valley-Wide Health Systems in Alamosa who helps people enroll through Connect for Health Colorado, Shirley made an appointment. “With the help of the guide, I found something reasonable,” she says. With $242 in tax credits, Shirley also signed up for a dental plan – and still saved about $140 a month compared to what her COBRA health plan alone would have cost.
“It is such a benefit to sit with somebody on a one-to-one basis to go over plans. I got all my questions answered; all my paperwork was completed before I walked out the door. I hugged the individual who helped me because I was so excited that I would soon have health coverage! It’s exciting to know I have insurance that will allow me to live within my means.” And now, Shirley says, “I love to hike and ride my mountain bike. After the New Year, I’d like to volunteer at the Head Start to spend some educational time with my grandson. I’m thoroughly enjoying life.”
Meet Karen of Alamosa, Colo.
Every day, Karen helps uninsured and under-insured patients at the rural Alamosa Family Medical Center, one of Valley-Wide Health System’s Alamosa clinics, figure out how to access health coverage. “We have some poor areas, but people want health insurance. They want to be able to be well and enjoy their families and the beautiful area we live in,” says Karen, an Outreach and Enrollment Specialist and a Connect for Health Colorado certified Health Coverage Guide for Valley-Wide Health Systems, Inc. “I met with one woman (in her 50s) who said she hasn’t had a well-woman exam in 15 years and never had a mammogram. She’s wanted to go to a doctor but hasn’t been able to. As soon as she gets insurance, she says she’ll do a bucket list and that will be on it. She’s really excited with the thought of being able to get it all done.” Colorado’s health insurance marketplace is changing lives and that’s especially fulfilling, Karen says. “We’re getting more and more positive feedback. I’m really having fun.”
Meet Lauren of Denver, Colo.
When Lauren, a 28-year-old advertising account executive in Denver, received her letter, she wasn’t really surprised: Her health insurance company was discontinuing her plan of three years and advised her to shop for a new one.
“I knew I needed to get a new plan that met the requirements of the new law quickly.” After several years working in health communications, and buying her own policy since becoming an independent contractor three years ago, she’s fairly savvy about health insurance. “I knew I had to purchase a new plan on the individual marketplace, since the group option through my husband’s office wasn’t affordable enough for me.”
Even though she doesn’t qualify for new healthcare subsidies, Lauren compared her options on Connect for Health Colorado – narrowed by cost and deductible amounts – against other insurance websites. “All three sites had the same costs. I went back to Connect for Health Colorado to buy it because I knew all the plans would be legal under ACA. I trusted that it had the latest, state-specific information.”
“There’s a lot of confusion around this,” she adds. “I have friends who are staying in jobs they’re not happy at (so they don’t lose insurance). They don’t know they can buy their own and that this site is for them.”
Meet Lynne & Mike of Loveland, Colo.
Loveland life coach and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Practitioner Lynne, 51, has a separate health insurance policy from her husband Mike, 57, a self-employed musician and guitar instructor. “We don’t go to doctors because our (current) plans don’t really cover anything,” she says. Combined, the couple now pays more than $850 a month for their health plans that also require each pay $5,000 a year out-of-pocket deductibles before insurance will cover medical costs.
In October, Mike began shopping for new insurance through Connect for Health Colorado. “I called the Service Center. It was great,” he says. “The representatives were very patient. They helped me navigate.” He took his time, researched over a couple days and a few phone calls. A plan comparable to what they have now would cost them $19 a month for 2014. Another option with far more coverage and lower deductibles would be $216 a month. “At the end, we’re left just picking a company we want to go with,” he says. “The cost savings is fantastic with the subsidies built in.”
Adds Lynne: “Our healthcare prior to this has cost more than our mortgage. This is amazing, so much better!”
Meet Rebecca of DelNorte, Colo.
As a nurse whose husband was a family physician in their community of Del Norte, Rebecca, 61, understands the importance of having health insurance. But since her husband passed away in 2007, she has lost health coverage in jobs that didn’t offer it, cut back or closed.
When she looked into private insurance, the plan she wanted would have cost $1,100 a month. So in October, she went to the new Marketplace. “I called (the Customer Service Center) and they entered all the information in for me. It worked out fine.” She found a new health plan for $524 a month, and then learned she is eligible for a $510 per month tax credit. “So I’ll be paying $14 a month. Insurance is complicated, but it’s worth it!”
With three grown sons – one a physician, one an attorney and one a teacher – “I think they feel relieved. They’re starting their own families. They don’t need to be taking care of me at this point,” Rebecca says. “I feel great. It feels safe.”
Meet Lela and Michael of Flagler, Colo.
Lela and Michael, owners of the Anything and Everything store in Flager, CO., on the Eastern Plains of the state, had almost given up on their dream to retire early. Health insurance costs for the couple – she’s 57 and he’s 60 – had crept up so high “it was the same as the rest or our bills combined.”
Even though they’ve stayed with the same insurance company since 1992, their costs have gone from $350 a month for a family of six, to $1,950 a month just for the couple. “There’s no way we could retire, we couldn’t pay the insurance even working. Our medical costs most years were cheaper than insurance.”
In October, Lela went on Connect for Health Colorado’s web site and called the Customer Service Center to see if she could find something more affordable. “You hear about all the problems. But once I got on the phone, it was a breeze! They stayed on the phone the whole time until I got all the way through (the application).”
She found a plan from their current insurance company for $1,200 a month. “That’s huge, that’s $700! Figure in our income and the tax credit, it brought it down to about $835 a month. Even without the tax credit, it’s amazing. If we’d been in this position the last 10 years, it would’ve been wonderful.”
What does this mean for the couple? “We can semi-retire and slow down,” she says, adding they plan to spend more time with their four grandchildren. While they’ll likely close the store, “Mike is a workaholic, he’ll still buy and trade and do stuff like that. But I’ve worked since I was 12. I’m really looking forward to being a housewife.”
Meet Sarah of Durango, Colo.
Sarah is a 45-year-old woman in Durango who was skeptical before she saw Connect for Health Colorado’s shopping website. She had been previously turned down for insurance because of a pre-existing condition. On October 1, Sarah went to Connect for Health Colorado’s website and quickly found her way around. She used the browsing option to look at health plans in her area and dig into the details.
“When I logged on to poke around, I was impressed,” Sarah said. “It was easy. I didn’t have any trouble with it.”
The next week, Sarah went back to the website, created an account, spent more time comparing three health plans and then signed up for a plan without any issues. Sarah knew what she wanted, including a plan that had better coverage for out-of-network providers.
“What I was aiming to get was a plan that was as close to what I had,” Sarah said. “The monthly premium was very important. I did not want to pay more. I could have gone for plans that were much cheaper but I’d pay higher co-insurance and deductibles. I found a silver plan that is identical in almost every way to my current plan except that it’s $8 less per month.”
Meet Robin of Eagle County, Colo.
Robin has struggled for years to pay for health insurance, which cost $600 a month over the last two years. Early in October, the self-employed Eagle County resident logged onto to the Connect for Health Colorado website and started looking at health plans. The next week, Robin filled out the application for financial assistance and learned right away that she was not eligible for Medicaid and could move ahead with applying for advance premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. Robin completed the application over the phone with a Connect for Health Colorado Customer Service Center Representative and found out that she was eligible for a large advance premium tax credit and for lower co-pays and deductibles. A few days later, Robin signed up for a silver-level health plan with a $2,000 deductible that will cost her $132 a month after applying the tax credit.
A portion of the monthly savings on insurance premiums will fund a medical savings account for Robin. The rest will allow her to make a few home improvements.
“It worked out great for me. Colorado really has it together.”
Robin’s Advice: “If I was doing it over, I would set up my account online, then call the Customer Service Center right away. Let the Customer Service people walk you through the process. They were very organized and knowledgeable, and it really didn’t take very long. Overall it was a much better experience than I had expected.”
How We Connect our Customers to Coverage
Connect for Health Colorado is a health insurance marketplace designed just for Colorado. Our shopping website is built on technology and operations that are separate from the federal health insurance marketplace, healthcare.gov. We offer many consumer-friendly tools and have been busy enrolling Coloradans since October 1. We are a non-profit established by a 2011 state law.
- Our customers can browse health plan features and prices and get an estimate of their potential financial assistance, based on income, without creating an account or making a commitment.
- Among our consumer-friendly tools, we offer a directory for customers to search for health plans that include their preferred doctors and medical facilities. More than 36,000 medical providers across Colorado are included in our provider directory.
- Connect for Health Colorado is creating more competition for the benefit of Coloradans. We offer 150 health plans from 10 companies for individuals and families and 92 health plans from six companies for small businesses with up to 50 employees, plus dental plan options.
- Coloradans can apply for financial assistance, starting with a check for Medicaid eligibility, through our website, and then see if they are eligible for a new kind of tax credit, which can save hundreds a month up-front on premiums, and other cost savings.
- Coloradans also have the choice to buy health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado without applying for financial assistance and then claim the tax credit, if eligible, when they file their taxes in 2015.
- More than 1,300 licensed health insurance agents and brokers across the state have been trained and certified to assist and provide advice to our customers. You can find a certified agent or broker through our online search tool on our homepage.
- More than 400 Health Coverage Guides have been trained and certified to assist customers in person at Assistance Sites across the state. You can find an Assistance Site through our online search tool on our homepage.
- Our Customer Service Center in Colorado Springs is open from 7 am to 8 pm Mondays through Saturdays at 1-855-PLANS-4-YOU (855-752-6749) to provide personalized assistance over the phone or through online chat at no cost to customers.
- The quickest way to start looking at health plans is to click on the blue Find a Plan link in the Browse Plans box on in the middle right side of our shopping page.