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. Among states running their own health exchanges, Colorado ranked sixth for October enrollments behind California, New York, Washington, Kentucky and Connecticut. (Click here to see a chart from the New York Times showing state totals for the first month.)

While customers have struggled with computer glitches on the federal health exchange,, a cumbersome mandatory Medicaid application in Colorado has frustrated many customers here.

Even after completing the Medicaid application, some Coloradans have had to wait days or weeks for Medicaid approvals or denials before they can shop on Colorados exchange.

Medicaid managers simplified the Medicaid questionnaire about 10 days ago, but its unclear whether the pace of sign-ups has increased since then. Exchange board members have pleaded with state Medicaid managers for fast fixes because people who want health insurance to start on Jan. 1 must sign up and pay for their new plans by Dec. 15.

Sign-ups for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income and disabled Americans, have moved along at a much faster clip than sign-ups for private insurance both in Colorado and across the country.

During the first half of November, Colorado approved an additional 13,141 people for Medicaid coverage that will start in January. Altogether since the exchange opened, Colorado has found that 47,309 people will qualify for Medicaid.