Sign-ups for private insurance top 63,000 as exchange faces state audit

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

A state audit of Colorado’s health exchange has begun and managers say they expect it will show a clean financial bill of health.

“We’ve already gotten our first communications from them (state auditors),” said Patty Fontneau, CEO and executive director for Connect for Health Colorado.

She said auditors have requested 16 items.

“It will be a lot of work. It will take a lot of our time. We’re going to have to incorporate that into our deadlines,” Fontneau said during a meeting of the exchange board’s finance committee today.

Exchange workers traveled to King Soopers stores around the state to help customers sign up for insurance in December.

Exchange workers traveled to King Soopers stores around the state to help customers sign up for insurance in December.

Connect for Health Chief Financial Officer Cammie Blais said the exchange has already gone through two independent audits along with ongoing federal audits since federal taxes currently fund Colorado’s exchange.

“I’m not sure everyone is aware of all the different layers of oversight that we have. (Our federal auditors) were very happy with where we are with our financial health at this point,” Blais said.

State Rep. Jared Wright, R-Grand Junction, last week asked Colorado lawmakers for an extensive audit of Connect for Health after learning that Fontneau had requested a raise while enrollments in private health insurance were lagging in the fall. Health News Colorado (formerly Health Policy Solutions) was the first to report Fontneau’s request for a raise.

Wright also cited concerns that exchange managers are paying OnSight Public Affairs $15,000 a month for PR consulting. (Click here to read more.) Gov. John Hickenlooper has used the firm for his campaigns. The legislative audit committee voted 7 to 1 last week to authorize a thorough audit of the exchange’s spending. (Click here to read more about the audit vote in the Denver Business Journal.)

As the audit proceeds, sign-ups continue. About 11,000 new customers bought private health plans through the exchange during the first two weeks of January, according to the latest data from Connect for Health.

Altogether, from Oct. 1 when the exchange opened until Jan. 15, 63,407 people have bought private health plans through the exchange. The sign-ups, which lagged last fall, have now exceeded the exchange’s lowest projections. They still fall short of a mid-level projection that Connect for Health would sign up about 94,000 people by the end of this month and about 134,000 by the end of open enrollment on March 31.

Nonetheless Fontneau said in a written statement that she’s pleased with the pace of enrollments.

“We are encouraged to see steady interest from Coloradans during the second half of our open enrollment period and we are focused on reaching as many Coloradans as possible to help them shop for health insurance and apply for new tax credits to reduce costs,” Fontneau said.

In addition to sign-ups for private health insurance, 101,730 Coloradans are now getting Medicaid under expanded programs that allow more low-income people to access the government-run program. (Click here to see more Medicaid data.)

Susan Birch, the state’s Medicaid manager, said sign-ups are going very well.

“The numbers … further demonstrate Colorado as a leader in the nation,” Birch said in a written statement. “We are among a handful of states with technology in place to allow for real time eligibility determinations for Medicaid. The technology, along with our strong network of county and community partners, has allowed us to enroll individuals into new coverage faster than many other states many of which have much larger populations to reach.”



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