by Allie Broas, Program and Administrative Assistant

Collecting and sharing consumer stories is a large part of our work, mostly so we can champion the successes Colorado consumers have with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Sometimes, though, we receive stories of Coloradans looking to share experiences that aren’t so positive. Just the other day, I received a call from a consumer (let’s call her Amy) asking about options for purchasing health insurance outside open enrollment. Now, if you are looking to purchase outside open enrollment, you may only do so if you experience certain qualifying life events [unless you are eligible for Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+)]. To see what the qualifiers are for the Special Enrollment Period, follow this link:

Amy informed me that she was currently uninsured. But she hadn’t lost her job, gotten married, or aged out of her parents coverage. A nearly blemish-free health history led her to refrain from purchasing health insurance for the year, a decision mirrored by many Coloradans who still opt to remain uninsured. She could have never predicted the ramifications of that decision, when last month she received a life-threatening diagnosis. Her doctor informed her it would require immediate and continuous medical attention that could not wait until January 1, the earliest day plans purchased during open enrollment can go into effect. So, without health insurance, she was admitted to a hospital to begin treatment.

Without a qualifying life event or being eligible for Medicaid, Amy’s options may be very limited until the next open enrollment period. Charity care and payment plans could be available through her provider, but unfortunately, the likelihood that Amy will face exorbitant medical bills is high and adds stress to an already stressful diagnosis. 

Situations like Amy’s are unfortunately very common. CCHI regularly receives phone calls from consumers who missed the open enrollment period and are now in a situation necessitating health insurance coverage. 

Earlier this month, the RAND Corporation released a research report on barriers to health enrollment coverage in Colorado. Some of the most common barriers affecting people’s decision to enroll were the negative attitudes toward the individual mandate and the health care system, as well as the perceived lack of affordable health insurance coverage.

Paying monthly premiums for health insurance may seem unreasonable and unnecessary, especially when you’re not one to frequent doctor’s offices or emergency rooms. Unfortunately, as Amy’s predicament highlights, our tendency to visit the hospital doesn’t provide any indicators of our future health, and serious medical problems arise in even the healthiest of people.

In Kaiser’s final pre-midterm elections Health Tracking Poll, 9 out of 10 of the uninsured are reportedly unaware of when the next open enrollment period begins, and two-thirds of the uninsured say they know little to nothing about the marketplaces where people can shop for insurance. For the majority of the uninsured population, the most glaring barrier affecting the actual enrollment process is misinformation and poor communication.

The next open enrollment period is coming up and we need to make sure Coloradans know about this limited time period to shop for coverage and are equipped with the information they need to get covered. This year, open enrollment is much shorter than last year: Nov 15, 2014-Feb. 15, 2015.

Enroll people here:

And share your stories with us here:

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