Board chair has 'doubts' about health exchange future

DENVER—The chair of the board of Connect for Health Colorado, the state health insurance exchange, expressed doubts about the organization's ability to become financially viable in a meeting with state lawmakers Wednesday.

During a conversation about the board's search for a new CEO and executive team, board chair Sharon O'Hara expressed confidence in the ability of their chosen finalist Robert Malone to right the ship, saying that he has experience turning around troubled companies.

Then she added a qualifier.

"If this is doable," O'Hara said. "He can make it happen."

That prompted Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R-Thornton) to reply, "You said if this is doable?"

"I have my doubts on good days," O'Hara responded. "Today is not one of my good days."

O'Hara later walked back the remark in an email to the legislators on the committee, which Connect for Health provided to 9NEWS.

"My remarks may have left open to question my view as to whether those issues can be properly addressed," O'Hara wrote. "I want to assure the committee members that we are bringing forward a finalist whose experience, talent and intelligence are a match to the challenges we face."

Video of exchange and the rest of the meeting were provided to 9NEWS by the conservative group Revealing Politics.

The exchange was started with taxpayer money, including $179 million in federal grants.

However, the exchange is ultimately supposed to be self-sustaining, funded through the sale of insurance plans.

Enrollment numbers have not met expectations laid out in the financial modeling created before the exchange became operational.

Connect for Health points out that it has revised its projected enrollment count downward since the launch, citing changing market conditions, such as the continuation of non ACA-compliant plans.

The exchange's board currently charges and can continue to charge fees on nearly all health plans in Colorado, even those not sold on the exchange, to fund its operation.

Former board member Ellen Daehnik predicted to 9NEWS that the state government may eventually need to bail out the exchange by taking it over, instead of leaving it in its current form as a quasi-governmental entity.

Another option would be to scrap the health exchange and use the federal healthcare.gov website as Colorado's exchange.

O'Hara went on in the hearing to make it clear that she wants to see the exchange turn things around and become self-sustaining, saying the CEO finalist "has the key skills that are really important to make that happen."

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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