Enrollment Centers Help Coloradans Navigate Health Coverage Options

Dec 18, 2014

Janet Schafer, background, and Anna Cubel, foreground, at Hilltop's Health Access site in Grand Junction. Cubel is answering a caller's questions about open enrollment.
Credit Laura Palmisano

Open enrollment for Colorado’s health exchange ends Feb. 15. If you need help figuring out coverage options there are enrollment centers across the state where you can get it.  

Hilltop’s Health Access site in Grand Junction is busy. It's 1 of 13 enrollment centers in the state.

People can come here to get help navigating Colorado’s insurance exchange.

Rhonda Lofing manages the site for Hilltop, a local nonprofit. Lofing is also a certified health coverage guide.

"The way we start with people is we talk to them about their individual circumstances [like]…their family size, income, [and] if they're already offered employer-based coverage," she says. 

Guides like Lofing help people figure out if their eligible for Medicaid or the state’s health plan for low-income children and pregnant women (CHP+). They also assist with the state’s exchange.  

"We can help people go into Connect for Health Colorado, shop for a plan, and explain some of the different insurance plans that are available in this area," she says.

Open enrollment for the exchange started in mid-November. 

So far more than 108,000 people have enrolled for private insurance plans, according to Connect for Health Colorado.

Issues With The Exchange

Eve Buckmelter is a bilingual health guide for Hilltop. She says it’s been challenging to sign people up through the online system. 

"Unfortunately the system has had certain glitches," Buckmelter says. "And while we have been able to enroll some there are others because of technical issues we have not been able to enroll.

Lofing says Connect for Health Colorado launched a new system before this enrollment period. And, it has some problems. 

"A few people are experiencing loops where they are asked to continue adding new family members," she says. "Another glitch that has occurred is people aren't able to shop. In Connect for Health Colorado the shop button is not working."

Lofing says another issue is users aren't seeing their tax credits or the amount they do see is incorrect. But, despite these challenges people still want coverage.

Spencer Rugland, 26, is at the center to get insurance.

"I am just checking my options," Rugland says. "I changed jobs recently so I lost my coverage from my previous employer. And I'm just seeing what the system has to offer."

He says his health guide didn't experience any technical difficulties when helping him with the process.  

"The gentleman Greg that I worked with walked me through everything very easily," Rugland says. "It took 15-20 minutes, in and out. And I should hear back within a week." 

Rugland works at an ski resort building and testing jumps. He says his job can be dangerous so that’s why he wants coverage.  

"It’s just one of those things you know," he says. "Everyday you are rolling the dice so it’s nice to feel safe about it." 

Enrollment Centers

There are enrollment centers in Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, and other locations across the state.

Hilltop runs two enrollment centers in Grand Junction. 

Lofing says since open enrollment started the nonprofit has helped more than 400 people.  

"It’s been a very interesting experience working at an assistance site," she says. "There are a lot of challenges, but a lot of rewarding work too to help people enroll in coverage particularly people [who] haven't been able to seen a physician in many, many years."

Both of Hilltop’s sites see people by appointment, but occasionally they host walk-in events.