HealthOP shutdown leaves 185 in Routt County looking for new insurance
Steamboat Springs — The sudden decision by the Colorado Division of Insurance to pull the plug on a popular affordable health insurance option is leaving about 185 Routt County residents to sign up for new plans before the end of 2015.
The non-profit Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative, known as Colorado HealthOP, provides insurance for about 83,000 Coloradans who must now sign up for new plans.
The cooperative program, which relied on risk-based reimbursements from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, or CMS, was quickly shut down by the state after CMS revealed early this month it only planned to reimburse at a level of 12.6 percent of the amount originally promised — leaving HealthOP with a significant reserve shortfall and a designation of financially unstable.
HealthOP officials posted on the cooperative’s website that they were angry about the decision to enter “runoff” and wind down operations.
“Colorado HealthOP did their part. We are mad that Congress reneged on their obligation and caused the failure of a public-minded regional carrier,” a statement on the HealthOP website noted.
While many brokers across the state are reporting that changing to a new plan will mean an increased premium for those insured, HealthOP was not the most popular exchange plan in Routt County, according to the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
“Our most popular plan was under Rocky Mountain Health Plans for affordability,” said Janie Dunckley, business development director for the VNA.
Dunckley said that, due to Steamboat’s classification as a “resort region” by the state, insurance premiums are high here regardless of the plan chosen.
“In our region, we are being looped into the resort region, so we’re definitely more expensive than the state,” Dunckley said.
Dunckley said the VNA is conducting targeted outreach to those affected by the HealthOP shutdown to encourage them to seek information from a broker or health coverage guide.
“We want them either to be able to talk to a health coverage guide or a broker to walk them through the process,” Dunckley said. “We’ll be doing emails and a mailing blast and really outreaching everyone and letting them know what they can do.”
Broker Bill Crosby, of Steamboat Select Insurance, said HealthOP is the third carrier to go out of business or discontinue service in Routt County in the past three years, which limits competition and plan choices for local residents.
Residents who were insured under HealthOP will continue to receive coverage through Dec. 31, provided they continue to pay their premiums. Members must choose a new healthcare carrier during open enrollment, which runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2015, and choose before Dec. 15 to prevent a lapse in coverage.
Health insurance open enrollment begins for all residents Nov. 1. For more information or to purchase insurance through the marketplace, visit connectforhealthco.com.
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