Your Money: Colorado’s Affordable Care Act website a woeful maze of dysfunction
January 2, 2014
I make it a point in my practice to avoid listening only to opinions and focus on the facts. So, with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, I felt that the only way to form an opinion on the new system was to try it out for myself. I do see some benefits to the law, as well as some drawbacks, so I approached the website from a neutral position.
I waited a few weeks to try out Colorado's health care portal, hosted at http://www.connectforhealthco.com. My initial reaction was how random the website address was. I truly fear that fake, phishing-type sites will pop up soon enough and that buyers will be scammed into paying for insurance at those sites, or at the minimum, providing all their personal information to the wrong people. I wish the site was maintained by the Secretary of State, Department of Revenue, or some other reliable, secure entity so that buyers knew they were in the right place.
Unlike the reports about the federal portal being full of bugs and issues, I didn't find that experience on this website the first time I went through it. Although it took me a few minutes to figure out where to get started, once I started entering my family's data, it went rather smoothly. A few of the questions were repetitive, and I wish there was a way to auto-fill from one family member to another, but overall it worked well and at the end, I was given insurance quotes for my family. I will admit I wasn't pleased with the rates, it was quoting me $1,200-$2,400 per month for premiums, with an $8,000-$12,000 deductible, which I would argue is not affordable for a family of four.
My bigger grips with the site came a few days later. I visited the website a second time and found it had been completely reconstructed. When I looked at the page to review my plans, it says I wasn't eligible for any plans. When I looked up a local dentist, it gave me a list of doctors and chiropractors, with only one dentist listed whose office was over 150 miles away.
I decided to get help, figuring perhaps I missed something. I reached out to a few insurance agents and site navigators hired locally to help out. After a three-day wait, I only had my phone call returned by one of the three resources I reached out to. I also called the help line and after a two hour wait, I gave up.
The agent I spoke to was from Denver and very knowledgeable, however he said that most of the bugs were not on the front end of the site giving quotations, but rather on the back end when people actually tried to enroll. In four weeks of trying, he said the website still wasn't successful in processing enrollments. We discussed mountain communities specifically, and he said that was a big challenge. Because we have a lower population and a high rate of claims due to our sports injuries, the insurance carriers are able to set our rates higher than other communities and some have chosen not to offer insurance at all.
I did gain one critical bit of information. The rates are the same whether you navigate the website yourself or use an insurance broker. After my brief experience, I would never attempt this process again without the help of a knowledgeable insurance agent.
Michele Knight, owner of Knight Accounting & Technology, is a CPA and QuickBooks ProAdvisor based in Dillon. For more info and to contact her, visit http://www.cpamichele.com.
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