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A Success Story: Health Insurance Enrollment in Colorado

Oct 16, 2013, 10:00 AM

Sue Birch, MBA, BSN, RN, is executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow (2002).

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Now that I have caught my breath, I wanted to share the Colorado report on Obamacare’s October 1st Birthday!  Our state has decided to expand our Medicaid program and to form our own marketplace for Coloradans to shop and compare health insurance plans.  These changes will help us cover many uninsured Coloradans. 

In its first week, Connect for Health Colorado, our state’s health insurance marketplace, successfully attracted more than 162,941unique website visitors, had 9,658 calls and chats to the service center, and 18,174 accounts created.  We think this is a strong start and know that it will take time for Coloradans who have not had insurance before to learn about their options and apply for coverage.  We are working across state government to help make this happen.       

At my department, Health Care Policy and Financing, Coloradans can enroll through our new modularized interoperable cloud-based system, PEAK.  We had more than 9,000 applications come through this site in the first 10 days of October.  It is foundational to our desire to increase new consumerism and greater client responsibility by walking through a self-enrollment process.  Our website is Colorado.gov/PEAK and we have seen record traffic to the application site.

Overall, the marketplace opening went quite smoothly for Colorado—the exchange opened successfully, Medicaid began, and our technology functioned efficiently for being such a large, complex system. With the marketplace now up and running, individuals, families, and small employers can start making appointments with Health Coverage-Guides, learn about plan options, and apply for insurance when ready.

This is an exciting moment in health care history and we are proud to be working with partners across our state and our nation to provide affordable health insurance options to all residents of Colorado!

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.

In Aurora, A Massacre Becomes a Miracle, and Then Patients Help Doctors Heal

Aug 13, 2012, 9:00 AM, Posted by Comilla Sasson

Comilla Sasson, MD, MS, is an attending physician at the University of Colorado Hospital and Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado.  Sasson was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan from 2007 to 2010.

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I wasn’t even supposed to work that night. I had finished a long day of meetings, and found out at 6:30 pm that my colleague, who had called in sick twice in 40 years, had influenza and he knew it was best not to expose Emergency Department (ED) patients to it.  After he called, I remember thinking, “Well, I can just power through until 8 am. Nothing too bad happens on Thursday nights.”

The night began as many other nights do in our ED. Twenty-five of our 50 beds were taken up by inpatients who were waiting for hospital beds to open up.  The ED was completely full, with another 10 patients in the waiting room. “Another one of those nights,” I groaned to myself.  We were already on “divert” status, meaning that ambulances would bypass our hospital and go to others in town. This should be a relatively easy night, right?

Until we received the call over the dispatch radio at approximately 12:30 am: Shooting at a theater in Aurora. Hopefully the paramedics remembered we were already at capacity and took the patients elsewhere.  Nine minutes later, we received a frantic phone call from one of the policemen on scene: Multiple shooting victims and Aurora Police Department just received permission to transport patients to hospitals in the backs of police cars instead of waiting for ambulances.  That’s when we realized this was not a gang fight with one or two victims, this was something different. 

The first police car showed up at 1:06 am. We raced out to the ambulance bay and started removing patients from the back of the car. The police car looked like a crime scene, with blood splattered throughout. As we were pulling the first two victims out of the car, another police car showed up. And another. And another. In total, we received nine police cars and one ambulance within 45 minutes.  Looking out into our ambulance bay with police lights flashing, I realized, this is not like any other shooting I have been involved in. This is radically different.

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