Health insurance

The 2018 open enrollment period is the first time enrollment numbers have fallen year-to-year on Colorado’s Affordable Care Act healthcare exchange. The trend matches a dip in enrollment across other parts of the country. Many are blaming the current Presidential administration for the decline. Colorado’s exchange, known as Connect for Health Colorado, is figuring out what they can do better in the 2018 year.

Colorado health care advocates attribute the decline in enrollment from a concerted effort by the Trump administration to weaken the Affordable Care Act. Though the administration has made obvious moves to weaken the program – why numbers have fallen is still unclear.

Through January of 2018, 165,177 Coloradoans had used the Connect for Health to enroll in a health plan for the year. Those Coloradans are a 4% decline from the previous period in 2017. The 2018 open enrollment period was 22 days shorter than last year’s open enrollment period, a change that comes from the White House. Despite the decline, CEO of Connect for Health Colorado Kevin Patterson is happy with the numbers, all things considered.

“These are positive results that show us holding steady and in line with our targets for the year,” Patterson said in a statement. “Despite the uncertainty that created some confusion in the market, we have seen volumes that nearly match last year’s longer Open Enrollment Period,” said Patterson.

Approximately 8% of Coloradans buy their health insurance from the individual market. Most get their coverage through an employer. Though this number is small – these are the numbers that are watched closely by healthcare officials.

Both federal and state exchanges are up against a Republican-majority Congress and White House that are putting roadblocks in place. The individual mandate that states Americans must receive health insurance or be fined on their taxes was repealed in the new Congressional tax package and the Trump administration has reduced funding for federal exchange advertising for states without their own exchanges. These numerous roadblocks decreased open enrollment by 5% across the country.

Spokesperson for the nonprofit Colorado Health Institute points out that the drop in enrollment can’t be solely attributed to the Trump administration since there could be other causes like more people getting their health insurance from an employer. Given the turmoil surrounding Obamacare, Hamel is surprised that the numbers weren’t worse. “It’s impressive that as many people enrolled as did,” he said.