This post was written by Gretchen Hammer, a previous member of our team.
Today is an exciting day. The new health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, is open and individuals and small businesses looking to purchase health insurance can begin to use the marketplace to shop. As a member of the Board of Directors for Connect for Health Colorado, I am proud of the great work the staff, board, policymakers, and stakeholders have done to create this new opportunity in Colorado.
However, to be honest, I am excited about the opening of Connect for Health Colorado for another, more personal reason. As the Executive Director of a small nonprofit with an annual budget of around $500,000 and six full-time employees, I not only serve as the Executive Director, but also the Director of Finance, the Chief Grant Writer and the Head of Human Resources. And, I cannot wait to use the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) to purchase our health coverage next year.
Using the SHOP will enable CCMU as a small employer to better compare our options by allowing for side-by-side comparisons of plans. I tried to do this on my own two years ago just between two health insurance companies but found it incredibly confusing. The SHOP will also enable CCMU to offer our employees, who have diverse health care needs, the ability to choose the health insurance plan that is right for them. I am not sure if our organization will qualify for the available tax credit for small nonprofits, but I look forward to working with the Connect for Health Colorado customer service center to evaluate this possibility.
As early as 2001, CCMU recognized the importance of preserving and expanding health insurance provided by small employers. In our report, Healthy Colorado: First Thoughts on a Plan to Ensure Coverage for All Coloradans, we explored the idea of providing tax credits to small employers to "increase the availability of employer-sponsored insurance, since this is one of the most effective and efficient means of expanding coverage."
Data from the 2012 Division of Insurance Health Insurance Cost Report confirms that the goals of preserving and expanding coverage provided by small employers is as important today as it was twelve years ago. "The number of small companies with less than fifty employees that offered health insurance dropped from 39% in 2010, to 32.6% of companies in 2011."
It's been a long road to get to this point, and it's a big day for all of us in Colorado. We should be proud of the hard work we've all done and excited for the possibilities ahead. I'm personally eager to use Connect for Health Colorado as a tool for CCMU, and hope that it can help many more small employers provide coverage as well. We still have far to go in the journey to ensure our health care system meets the needs of all Coloradans, but today is a day of new opportunity. It's an exciting day.