Category: Legislation - Part 2

After 37-day delay, cancer patient gets insurance

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon It took 37 days of waiting in a bureaucratic black hole, 22 minutes on hold, two dropped calls and a switch to a new health system, but Donna Smith finally succeeded in signing up for new health insurance. She is one of 6,001 people who have bought insurance through Connect for Health Colorado during its first six weeks of operations. If people can get through the Medicaid process, I think theyll be pleasantly surprised, said Smith. After finally getting a Medicaid denial last week, Smith worked with an exchange phone agent whom she found to be…

Health insurance customers want simpler system

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon GREELEY No one mentioned cancellation notices. And no one expressed concerns about costs. Instead, at a sparsely attended public meeting about health insurance issues Tuesday evening, potential customers wanted to know if they could skip filling out Colorados complex Medicaid application. I heard theres a form to fill out with income. Someone said theres a blank you have to fill in about your assets. What is the need for that? asked Jim Dale, a Greeley retiree who doesnt qualify yet for Medicare. Colorados new insurance commissioner, Marguerite Salazar, hosted the meeting. Her office doesnt run Medicaid programs….

Mental health care cuts pack prisons, ERs

By Kristin Jones I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS Theyre victims of car accidents, theyve been shot, or they threatened their parents. They have overdosed on cocaine, swallowed too many pills or passed out drunk. On an average Friday or Saturday night, they can make up about half of the sick, injured and wounded crowding the rooms and hallways of the emergency department at Denver Health. And theres one trait these patients have in common, says Dr. Chris Colwell, director of the department. Had they received needed prior treatment, they might not be there at all. These ER visitors, for all…

Colorado health sign-ups continue to lag

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon Only 2,593 people signed up for private health insurance through Colorados exchange during the first half of November, a pace that will make it difficult for Colorado to reach a mid-level goal of 135,000 new customers by next year. In all, 6,001 Coloradans have bought private health plans since Colorados exchange opened on Oct. 1, according to new data that Connect for Health Colorado released today. Thats far lower than the states that are doing the best. California leads the nation so far with 35,364 customers having picked a private health plan in October. New York enrolled 16,404 people in private plans….

Mental health funding cuts fueled homelessness in Colorado

By Kristin Jones I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS Mark Maseros used to be a repeat customer at the ER when he wasnt in jail for drugs or theft. Now 54, Maseros spent three decades living homeless in Denver. Hooked on heroin that he took to self-medicate what he now recognizes as an anxiety disorder, he was taken to the emergency room after overdosing. Or he walked in with panic attacks. It was always good to go to the emergency room, because youd get things to deal with your uncomfortableness, says Maseros. If I said the magic words that I wanted…

Struggling in the red, Denver Health cuts 170 jobs

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon A loss of $7 million so far this year and fewer hospital patients have prompted Denver Health to cut 170 jobs. Often cited as a national leader in providing top-notch, low-cost health care for the poor, Denver Health also now faces a new penalty under the Affordable Care Act. Denver Health managers are calculating exactly how big that hit will be perhaps around $375,000 but federal Medicare managers are penalizing 1,500 hospitals across the country for not meeting various new quality measures, including low marks from patients. (Click here to read more.) Until this spring, Denver Health proudly had…

Opinion: Protecting patients central to physical, behavioral health reforms

By Michael Lott-Manier For just a moment, forget the politics of health care reform they wont go anywhere, I promise. Picture a low-income family able to stay safe and whole, because a parent can afford to see a therapist for anger. Think about what it would be like if fewer people ended up in prison, and more of them in jobs, because they were able to get help for mental illness and addiction earlier in life. Your friend was struggling to stay in treatment for depression, but kept falling out when her yearly allotted visits were through; now she can…

Exchange revamp not likely till mid-December

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon Health exchange board members on Monday pressed for immediate improvements to Colorados mandatory Medicaid application, but state officials, who contend that Colorado is a shining example among the states, refused to promise that a full slate of short-term fixes will be completed before Dec. 15. Thats the deadline for customers to buy health insurance if they want it to kick in on Jan. 1. And Colorado now could have as many as 1 million customers who need it. New data from the statewide Colorado Health Access Survey estimate Colorado has 741,000 uninsured people while the Colorados Division of Insurance recently…

Opinion: Obamacare problems much bigger than flawed websites

By Francis M. Miller In some religious faiths, if you die and it is not clear whether you belong in heaven or hell, you are left in limbo. Presently, the Affordable Care Act is in limbo. Democrats, particularly those up for re-election in 2014, desperately want the website to be fixed so that the state of grace will be returned. Republicans, on the other hand, are fueling Dantes inferno. We should stop and remember that all previous health care acts did not turn on the success of a website. Medicare, Medicaid, ERISA and OMBRA83 never required heavy technological support. To…

Impatience mounts for immediate exchange fixes

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon Colorados health exchange needs to be fixed now, not next month or next year, say increasingly frustrated board members for Connect for Health Colorado. It really had to be fixed yesterday, said Nathan Wilkes, an IT expert and chair of the exchange boards Operations Committee, who earlier this week called the mandatory Medicaid application that customers must fill out before they can move forward onerous, odious and embarrassing. He and other board members believe that the complex Medicaid application and other problems could be driving away customers. Only 3,408 people bought insurance through the exchange in…