Is the health care debate causing people to say uninsured?

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released new figures showing the number of Coloradans without insurance is on the rise.

According to the report, based on 2008 Census figures, 780,000 Coloradans are uninsured. Local health insurance providers say the health care debate itself may be a reason why.

Local insurance providers say the tough economic times have been unkind to Grand Valley residents' health plans.

"The economy has been very tough, so many employers have been dropping insurance," says Neil Waldron, chief marketing officer for Rocky Mountain Health Plans.

Businesses like Rocky Mountain Health Plans and Insurance Advisers Agency say they've also noticed a sharp drop in the number of individuals signing up for new plans, and an increase in the number of people dropping their plans.

While they cite things like personal budgets tightening or more people using COBRA as the cause of those trends, another reason they give may surprise you -- the health care debate itself.

"We do know that a number of people are deferring any decisions about individual insurance until they know what health care reform is going to do," said Waldron.

"Several people had the impression that change was coming, and that they might get a free plan or have a lower, reduced plan," says Dallas Grabow, an agent with Insurance Advisers Agency.

While they say they can understand where this growing group of people is coming from.

"I think they were just very optimistic and the expectations were really high from a lot of people," says Grabow.

They point out that no matter how soon a reform bill passes, those people waiting to cash in on it could end up going a lot longer than just a few months without basic coverage.

"These types of changes do take a lot of time before they're implemented," says Grabow.

"Most of this is going to phase in over a five year period and there's still a lot of uncertainty about what the final bill will look like," says Waldron.

With multiple versions of the bill currently floating through Congress, and of lot details still up in the air, they believe waiting for reform should not be a reason for staying uninsured.

"I think it's important that people, to the degree they can afford it, try to get insurance from whatever mechanism they can," says Waldron.

"You probably want to be insured until this legislation does come back," says Grabow.

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