More Than 300 Denver Residents Participated in Statewide Effort

 

For Immediate Release
Monday, March 19, 2012
Contact: CoPIRG Danny Katz 303-573-7474 ex 303 and [email protected]

 

Denver – Today, community leaders helped release a report that details the feedback that was generated from speaking with over 700 Coloradans, including over 300 in the Denver Metro area, around the creation of a new competitive marketplace for health insurance.  The new marketplace, known as the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange (COHBE), was created by state lawmakers in June 2011 and is tasked with increasing affordability, access and choice through websites and other tools that help Coloradans shop for health insurance. The full report can be found at http://cohealthinitiative.org/exchange-implementation-colorado-engaging-….

“I know how difficult it is to find good quality health insurance. With a pre-existing condition, I’ve cobbled together insurance over the last few years and the cost of my prescription drugs alone is $175 a month,” says Sarah McGuire, a CU-Denver undergraduate student. “The Exchange offers a lot of promise for folks like me who struggle to find affordable, quality coverage and that’s why I organized my peers to raise their voice around how the Exchange can work best for them.”

The report findings, generated by forums and focus groups that involved over 700 Coloradans from all across the state, provides insight into the perceptions and needs of Colorado consumers and small businesses.  One of the key findings was that participants anticipate needing or wanting a high level of consumer assistance.  This will be the anticipated role of the navigators, people who can help Exchange users navigate the new health insurance marketplace and understand and select the best health insurance for them.  Navigators are important because buying health insurance is a lot more costly and complicated than most other purchases.

Other key findings include:

  • Participants want to be able to search for health insurance using criteria such as cost, provider networks and covered benefits.
  • Participants value personal assistance from knowledgeable and attentive customer service representatives and want the ability to connect with a live person, even if they initially access the exchange through the Internet.
  • Participants would prefer a limited role for insurance companies in designing the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, but they want to see the board (appointed by lawmakers) pursue aggressive actions to contain costs and improve quality.

 

“As a student in the School of Social Work at the University of Denver, my peers and I will be on the frontlines, helping the uninsured and underinsured connect to affordable, quality health care and this Exchange offers a lot of hope,” said Maggie Dunham. “That’s why I organized forums for my classmates because I thought we would be well positioned to offer good ideas on how it could work best for Coloradans.”

The statewide organizing effort was spearheaded by three consumer advocacy groups, the Colorado Public Interest Research Foundation, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. In the Denver Metro area, numerous local organizations like the Stapleton Foundation, Ruby Hill Neighborhood Association, Servicios de la Raza, Northeast Park Hill Community Coalition, Central Presbyterian Church and students from the University of Denver, University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State College and the Community College of Denver partnered to host forums to ensure a diverse set of voices were part of the debate.

“I was excited to participate and organize a forum at my congregation, Central Presbyterian Church, especially because, as a person of faith, I’m very interested in exploring what it means to put faith into action,” said Kirsten Schatz. “Regardless of someone’s faith background, I think we can agree on the “golden rule” and work to treat others as we want to be treated especially in regards to health care which is a crucial matter that affects us all.”

The report will be presented to the COHBE Board on Monday, March 26th. The COHBE is working toward opening for open enrollment in October 2013.

“At the Stapleton Foundation, we know that decisions about health are too important for anyone to be left out of healthcare and decisions about our health are too important to be left to insurance companies and policymakers alone,” said Alisha Brown with the Stapleton Foundation, one of the local partners in the forums. “That’s why, we engaged our be well Block Captains (who are lay residents in the community) to voice their opinions in this process. Only together, we can shape the decisions that affect the health of every citizen in Colorado to create healthcare opportunities for all people.”

“The COHBE holds a lot of promise but will only work if it works for all Coloradans,” said Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG which facilitated the forums.  “That’s why we worked so hard to generate so much great information for the COHBE Board so they ensure the Exchange realizes its goals of increasing affordability, access and choice. And that’s why we will work equally hard to ensure the COHBE implements their suggestions – this is the beginning, not the end.” 

The full report can be found here.

Colorado Center on Law and Policy is an advocacy organization promoting justice, economic security, access to health care and sound fiscal policy.

Colorado Consumer Health Initiative represents 30+ Colorado health organizations with more than 500,000 health care consumer members, advocating for affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Coloradans.

CoPIRG is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests when they threaten our health and safety, our financial security or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

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