News - Part 3

Boomers dominate health sign-ups

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon Baby boomers are signing up for Colorados health exchange at much higher numbers than the so-called young invincibles who are critical to the success of health reform. Colorados health exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, this week released basic demographic data for the first time since the exchange opened on Oct. 1. Of the 9,980 people who signed up for health insurance in the first two months, 6 percent are ages 18 to 25. Another 11 percent are 26 to 34 years old. Most health analysts define young invincibles as people younger than 30. But even including…

Price of smoking could increase under ACA

By Jane Hoback As with most aspects of insurance, its a calculated risk. Do you lie to save a few bucks? Do you admit to that pack-a-day habit and just accept the possibility you could pay higher health insurance premiums? Or do you tell the truth so you can access free stop-smoking treatment and save those extra bucks anyway when the surcharge is eliminated once you do? Thats the prospect smokers face as they sign up for health insurance under the new regulations created by the Affordable Care Act. Depending on the plans they choose, smokers and other tobacco users…

Racy ads rile lawmakers

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon A Colorado lawmaker has threatened legislation to clamp down on Colorados health exchange after a partners racy ad campaign went viral around the U.S. Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, attacked a social media campaign launched by the liberal group, Progress Now, and health advocates at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. The campaign used provocative photos to encourage young people to buy health insurance. The most racy ad feature a young woman flashing her birth control pills and saying she hopes its as easy to get a hot guy between the covers as it was to get…

Exchange boss wants pay hike

By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon Patty Fontneau, the CEO and executive director of Colorados health exchange, has asked for a raise and could receive a pay hike plus a bonus by years end. Any debate over Fontneaus salary will happen behind closed doors. A spokeswoman for the exchange said executives requested that any compensation discussions happen in executive session. Those sessions are not open to the public, but Fontneaus salary and any increases will be public. Colorados exchange board meets today, but its unclear how soon theyll review Fontneaus performance. She is paid $190,550 a year and received a 10 percent…

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….

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…

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…

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…

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….