Colorado Showcases Obamacare's Challenges

Image: Colorado Showcases Obamacare's Challenges Walk-in clients wait for their names to be called at Connect For Health Colorado, the state's healthcare exchange, in Denver on March 31.

Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 10:28 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Colorado is demonstrating the challenges facing Obamacare.

Seven out of 11 Coloradans interviewed by USA Today about Obamacare have chosen to remain uninsured, three because they found the enrollment process too confusing and four who said they would rather pay a fine.

The purple Centennial State is one of 16, along with the District of Columbia, with its own health insurance exchange. President Barack Obama carried Colorado in both 2008 and 2012, but the U.S. Senate race is shaping up to be a referendum on the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican National Convention is adding more than a dozen staffers there as favorability numbers for the incumbent Democrat – Sen. Mark Udall – take a dive, according to Fox News. His GOP challenger, Rep. Cory Gardner, has been hammering Udall over his support for the law.

Colorado residents’ low opinion of the president’s signature legislation remains nearly the same as it did six months ago, according to a USA Today-Princeton Survey Research Associates poll. In October, 52 percent disapproved the law, compared with 53 percent today.

Of the group interviewed by USA Today, the three people with pre-existing conditions all signed up for coverage, but five of the people younger than 40 have not, a problem echoed nationwide that may jeopardize the whole system, according to the newspaper. Without the young and healthy, premiums for the elderly and infirm are predicted to skyrocket.

Only 26 percent of the 280,000 Coloradans who obtained coverage during the six-month enrollment period – 120,971 via private insurance, 158,521 via expanded Medicaid – were between 18 and 35, according to USA Today.

"It's like a scale to me: What return do I get for my money?" asked 31-year-old Matt Wright, who opted not to sign up because the potential penalty was far less than the $150 to $200 a month he’d pay for health insurance.

The USA Today roundtable participants expressed frustration over the healthcare website and the government’s delivery of pertinent information about the law and ways to enroll.

One woman tried calling for two hours on one occasion, followed by an hour and 45 minutes the next. Although she qualifies for Medicaid, Catherine Huston said the system repeatedly rejected her application. Ultimately, she could not afford the $137.50 monthly premium.

Amy Kitteringham tried, unsuccessfully, to navigate the healthcare.gov website until hearing on the radio that she was supposed to be using a state website, she told USA Today.

"They did a horrible job of letting people know about it, honestly," she said. "When elections are happening, people come to your door, everything's on television all the time, you're getting stuff in the mail constantly. But yet this is coming out, and it was kind of random places where this information came."

Obamacare is a key issue in the Colorado midterm elections. Conservative groups are pouring money into an advertising blitz attacking Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and his support for the law and the tagline "Obamacare doesn’t work."

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