Connect for Health Colorado has been one of the most successful exchanges in the country during the first year of operation. The exchange had enrolled nearly 146,000 people in private plans as of the end of August, and Colorado’s uninsured rate dropped by six percentage points from the end of 2013 to mid-2014.
But despite the successes, there have been frustrations along the way. Some of them are described in the “tips for avoiding enrollment frustration” post that we published in early September. One aspect of enrollment that has been cumbersome is the separate PEAK and Connect for Health Colorado applications. PEAK, which stands for Program Eligibility and Application Kit, is the system for determining eligibility for financial assistance (this includes not just health insurance, but also programs like SNAP and TANF).
The Old PEAK and Connect for Health Colorado Eligibility Process
In 2014, applicants who wanted to see if they were eligible for premium tax credits (subsidies) had to first submit a financial eligibility application through the PEAK website. If that process found the applicant to be eligible for Medicaid, the Medicaid enrollment could then be completed. And if the applicant was not eligible for Medicaid but did qualify for premium tax credits (ie, household income was not higher than 400% of poverty), the client could use their “1B” number from the PEAK system during the process of determining eligibility on the Connect for Health Colorado website.
Once the applicant had a 1B number from PEAK, she could then create an account on Connect for Health Colorado and complete her enrollment, using the data from the 1B number to verify subsidy eligibility (and if household income did not exceed 250% of poverty, eligibility for silver plans with built-in cost-sharing subsidies).
The process worked reasonably well, and the vast majority of the private plan enrollments in Colorado included premium subsidies (and 36% included cost-sharing subsidies). But it was relatively cumbersome, and one of the tips we included in our “avoiding headaches” article was that applicants should make sure they leave plenty of time for the PEAK application to be processed, because especially as monthly enrollment deadlines approached, getting a 1B number could be a lengthy process.
That’s why we’re very optimistic about the new one-stop-shop that Connect for Health Colorado will be utilizing during the 2015 open enrollment period. As always, we can help you with every step of the process (and there’s never a charge for our services), but it appears that it will be a more streamlined, user-friendly process this year.
The New Financial Eligibility Process
For the 2015 open enrollment period, the Connect For Health Colorado enrollment system will allow users to apply for financial assistance without leaving the exchange website. They will not need to first go to PEAK and then come back to the exchange site. In addition, the two websites – PEAK and Connect for Health Colorado – will be uniform in terms of log-in info… if you create an account on PEAK, you’ll be able to use the same log-in information on the Connect website, and vice versa (they do note that if you want to make a change to your log-in info, you’ll need to do it on the same site where you created your account).
It’s unclear yet how much faster the application process will be if a consumer completes the entire process on the exchange website. We assume it will be faster, although we can’t say for sure. But if it works as planned, this upgrade should result in a more user-friendly experience. Everything about the exchange has been built from the ground up, and we know that there have been some hiccups along the way with the technology (although not nearly as much as there was in a lot of other states). So fingers crossed… there could still be some technical issues with all of this. But on the surface, this looks like a significant improvement, and we’re looking forward to an even more successful second open enrollment period for Colorado.