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3700 in Colo. picked exchange plans in October; Udall introduces bill to let people keep plan for 2 years

9:57 PM, Nov 13, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON - A total of 3,736 Coloradans selected health-insurance policies from Oct. 1-Nov. 2 via the state's online marketplace, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

That's about 3.5 percent of the 106,185 Americans who chose new policies via state and federal health-care "exchanges" established under the Affordable Care Act, according to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS.

Californians made up 33 percent of those who opted for coverage through the exchanges nationally, with 35,364 residents signing up, HHS said. New York had the next highest total -- 16,404 people.

Just 26,794 of the 106,185 people nationwide who selected coverage through federal and state exchanges last month used the troubled federal exchange site, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. The remaining 79,391 people enrolled using exchanges set up by Colorado and 13 other states and the District of Columbia.

"No one will be satisfied with the numbers because they will be below what we sought prior to the launch," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

According to the Associated Press, the administration had hoped 500,000 people would sign up by the end of October, but technical glitches have plagued the exchange web sites.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 501,000 state residents are potentially eligible to buy insurance through Connect for Health Colorado, the name of the state's online insurance marketplace. Of those, 254,000 people could receive federal tax credits to lower the cost of plan premiums.

The HHS report showed that 20,492 Colorado applications filed on the Connect for Health Colorado site -- covering 45,575 state residents -- have been approved, though the applicants haven't yet chosen coverage. Nationally, 975,407 applications have been submitted to insure 1,081,582 eligible people.

The government estimates about 7 million people will buy insurance through the exchanges during the first year of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare."

President Barack Obama is coming under fire for problems associated with his signature domestic policy.

Republicans, who oppose the health-care law and have tried repeatedly to repeal it, have hammered the administration for the federal exchange's technical glitches. They've also capitalized on news that millions of Americans are being told by their insurers that their insurance will be canceled come Jan. 1 because it doesn't meet the minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans and a handful of Democrats -- including Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo. -- are lobbying the White House to allow people to keep their existing coverage.

Udall, who's up for re-election in 2014, on Wednesday introduced legislation that would allow people to keep their current coverage until Dec. 31, 2015. He also co-sponsored legislation introduced by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to extend the enrollment period beyond March 31, 2014, for consumers using state and federal exchanges.

"I share the concern that some health insurance companies are choosing to cancel thousands of Coloradans' plans. That's why my common-sense bill will allow Coloradans the option to keep their current coverage if they want or to purchase new plans" through the state exchange, he said in a statement.

A similar bill filed by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., would allow people to stay on their plans indefinitely even if the policies fail to meet the law's standards.

Neither bill has the backing of the White House or the Democratic leadership of the Senate -- at least not yet.

Last week, Udall, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and 14 other Senate Democrats met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for two hours at the White House over the problematic roll out of the health-care law.

All the senators except Bennet are up for re-election in 2014, reflecting growing concern about Democrats that the Affordable Care Act's roll out could hurt their re-election bids. Bennet heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which defends incumbents, recruits promising candidates and works to defeat Republican lawmakers and challengers.

Udall, Bennet and a handful of other Democrats have also asked Obama to consider extending the enrollment deadline, which the administration has refused to do.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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