The number of people enrolled in Colorado's new health insurance marketplace increased tenfold over about three weeks, according to updated figures released Monday.
Connect for Health Colorado officials counted 3,164 people covered under plans purchased through the marketplace from Oct. 1 through Saturday, along with about 316,000 unique page views to its website.
The statistics are important because the exchange will rely on strong buy-in to keep health insurance premium rates lower, and officials set a goal of enrolling 136,000 people by the end of 2014.
Marketplace officials hailed the figures as a sign of growing interest in the program. But not everyone greeted the statistics with applause.
"I kind of wish more people would be trying to sign up," said Mike Fallon, a North Colorado Medical Center emergency room doctor who sits on the exchange's board of directors. "I'm not overly discouraged from the numbers, I'm not pleasantly surprised either."
Marketplace officials declined to release the number of individual insurance plans sold - opting instead for the number of people covered so far, a more generous figure. For example, Connect for Health Colorado logged 226 individual plans sold during its first week, covering 305 people.
Prospective customers might be procrastinating, Fallon said, because they have until Dec. 15 to purchase coverage that begins on Jan. 1. Open enrollment ends March 31. Also, some insurance brokers appear to have advised clients to hold off enrolling while problems with Connect for Health Colorado's website are sorted out, Fallon added.
Not all Medicaid denials come instantly, delaying a key step for people seeking federal subsidies because they don't qualify for Medicaid benefits. A little more than half of those applications are instantly returned, Fallon said.
Also, marketplace officials delayed the opening of the online subsidies application and calculator until Nov. 4 - forcing people who wish to finish that process before then to call customer service.
The problems have paled in comparison to the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, according to health coverage guides across Colorado Springs who are tasked with offering unbiased help to people trying to navigate the system.
Pages on Colorado's website have loaded within five seconds 99.6-percent of the time, according to the marketplace statement.
But the guides complained that their official certification through Connect for Health Colorado has yet to come, a problem that could be fixed by Tuesday, said Ben Davis, a marketplace spokesman.
"We're addressing those problems as quickly as we can," Davis said.
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