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Colorado Healthcare Exchange CEO Advises Consumer Patience as Glitches Continue with Enrolling

Three weeks after the roll out of Obamacare, glitches continue with Connect for Health Colorado, one of 14 exchanges being run by individual states and the District of Columbia.

Connect for Health Colorado reports that as of Oct. 18 the website saw 162,941 unique visitors, 18,174 accounts were created and shoppers purchased 226 plans. That tally is far fewer than states such as Maryland and Kentucky.

Maryland, with a comparable population to Colorado, reports that more than 34,000 people have created accounts and 2,300 have successfully signed up for policies.

Once they do access the site, many Coloradoans are complaining about the Medicaid link, which either doesn’t allow them to progress or makes them wait days for a denial of service.

Patty Fontneau, the CEO of Colorado’s exchange, admits things haven’t gone smoothly, with some customers complaining that it took them 20 days to create accounts or access services.

“I’m not sure that we’re not transparent,” said Fontneau. “It really is a function of saying this is a long-term effort and we are continuing to grow our numbers and we prefer to focus on those (enrollment numbers) on a monthly basis instead of a daily or weekly.”

The exchange says it needs 100,000 enrollees to be viable, and Fontneau says the exchange hopes to have signed up about 135,000 people by October 2014, which would be deemed a “mid” range of performance. Officials set a “low” performance estimate of 75,000 people and a “high” target of 200,000.

Much of the scrutiny around the federal exchange has fallen on a Canadian contractor called CGI, which also worked on Colorado’s and other state exchanges.

In Colorado, the company acted as “systems integrator,” coordinating software products to perform various functions on the site. Most of connectforhealthco.com was built using programs that can be purchased on the shelf and then customized.

While the company is being chastised for its work on the national exchange, Colorado officials say they’ve had no problems with the contractor.

“CGI has been a great partner to us and has worked very well with us over the last year and a half,” said Fontneau.

As for asking consumers to remain patient, Fontneau says: “My pitch would (be that) it’s just important to have health insurance, because we never know what’s going to happen to us.”

Mike Pearson is a 30-year veteran of newspaper and magazine journalism and former Features Editor at the Rocky Mountain News. He currently teaches journalism at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

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