Delay for online tax credits extended

Posted on 23 October 2013.

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By Katie Kerwin McCrimmon

Customers trying to use an online system to qualify for federal tax credits through Colorado’s health exchange will have to wait at least until Nov. 4.

Managers at Connect for Health Colorado initially delayed the online feature until the end of October and in order to secure subsidies, customers have had to call clogged phone lines. Now, a spokesman said in a written response to questions that customers wanting to use the exchange website to cut their health insurance costs will have to wait until Nov. 4, the new target date for Colorado to have an online subsidy application. In the meantime, the only way to get subsidies is by phone at 1-855-PLANS-4-YOU or 1-855-752-6749.

Ben Davis, a spokesman for Connect for Health, also pledged that once the application for credits goes online, customers will be able to get tax rebates even through the federal website has failed to function since both federal and state exchanges launched on Oct. 1.

“We have a plan to connect with the federal data services hub for verification activities and, in cases where the connection is unavailable, to allow customers to continue with the application process,” Davis said.

He did not elaborate on what that plan is or how Colorado’s exchange specifically will allow customers to proceed with subsidy applications online when the federal data hub is down.

Davis insisted that problems with the federal system are not affecting Colorado.

“The federal marketplace is a completely separate system designed to provide health insurance in other states,” he wrote.

Colorado’s health exchange managers have repeatedly declined to conduct interviews about IT challenges with www.HealthPolicySolutions.org. Managers overseeing the multi-million dollar exchange, which has been funded with public money, will only accept and respond to questions in writing. They also have declined requests to share the behind-the-scenes functions of Colorado’s exchange.

Both the federal and state exchanges have long been pitched to the public as Travelocity-style online marketplaces for health insurance where customers could buy completely online.

But, even in Colorado, where the exchange appears to be working better than the federal exchange, customers often have to spend 90 minutes or longer with health coverage guides or wait on hold to speak with customer service agents. The process has been anything but a seamless, quick, 100 percent online experience.

That could drive away some key customers: so-called “young invincibles,” healthy 20-somethings, many of whom prefer to do research and make purchases for everything from athletic shoes to college tuition online.

Delay for Online Tax Credits Extended | Health | Rocky Mountain PBS
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Ryan's second blog

Working in corporate underwriting, I’m often on the road visiting with current and potential supporters. Yesterday, just before noon, I was leaving an appointment in Highlands Ranch, about 30 miles south of “the mother ship,” and my tummy was-a-grumbling. 

My days are busy and time is tight so when I’m on the road I need a meal that meets the Fuhrman dietary guidelines, is quick and tastes good. Luckily I live in Denver, Colorado- the healthiest city in the country!

In recent years, Denver’s food scene has shifted to include more specialty, full-service restaurants but three years ago, Denver was best known for its “fast-causal” eateries. Fast-casual restaurants don’t have drive-thrus, offer higher-quality ingredients, cleaner environments and generally have more healthy options. This is good for people like me, who enjoy  eating out but want to maintain a healthy diet.

I believe fast-casual places thrive in Denver because most people live here for easy access to outdoor activities. Did you know Chipotle, Quizno’s, Qdoba, Noodles and Company, Einstein Bros, Smashburger, Mad Greens, Spicy Pickle, Tokyo Joes, and

Garbanzos are all Colorado companies?

I realize this is all fascinating (#sarcasm) and you’re probably wondering why I brought it up. Well, here are some of my favorite spots to grab a healthy meal, in a clean environment, that won't take all afternoon:

Parsley-Okay this is not a chain but it is fast-casual and across the street from our studio. I honestly cannot believe there aren’t more places that have a similar menu.

They offer an amazing array of sandwiches, salads, seasonal soups, vegetable juice, loose tea and fruit smoothies. With a focus on simplicity and local organic meats and produce everything is delicious.

My staple is the hummus salad, a good amount of spinach, hummus, organic tomato, organic cucumber, organic carrot, kalamata olives and Terra beet chips. It comes with their house balsamic vinaigrette, on the side, which I now leave off and dip all the veggies in the hummus. 

If I’m looking for an afternoon treat, I get a large “The Parsley Mix” vegetable juice. This is powerful stuff, not in a rhino horn way, but it will jumpstart your immune system. Synopsis: Go here.

Chipotle- I know, everyone has been to Chipotle and sometimes over the lunch hour it feels like everyone is at Chipotle. But they seem to have taken a simple idea and made it work where so many have failed. The line moves fast, ingredients are tasty (admittedly cooked with oil and salt, so not totally DJF), they now have brown rice, the service is fast, it’s totally customizable, and at under $7 is a bargain. I go with a hybrid salad/bowl with brown rice, beans (black please- the pintos are cooked in bacon), peppers/onions, all the salsas, a heap of lettuce and some guac. Synopsis: A little less DJF but great in a pinch.

Tokyo Joe’s- I’ve always been aware of this place but for some reason it was never on my lunch radar. They really serve up some variety when you need something other than the “BIG” salad. Sushi, salads, build-you- own bowls and soups are the heart of what they do. I love that I can start with a bowl of steamed edamame, in fact nothing on the menu is fired. Everything is cooked up without fryers or greasy woks. I usually go the “build-your-own-bowl” route with brown rice tofu, veggies and some Dragon sauce on the side. Synopsis: A lot of tasty Asian options but beware of the sauces, they have a ton of salt.

Other places worth checking out include Garbanzos, Bombay Bowl and Mad Greens.

Well, I’m two weeks in and feeling great. My energy level is up, I’m sleeping like a rock, my clothes fit a little looser and I’m looking forward to everyday. I think the best part about this is being armed with the knowledge that this is a lifestyle and not a quick fix. As DJF says, once you’re armed with the knowledge it’s impossible to get it out of your mind and before every meal I think about what I’m about to put in my body. 

Leant it! Live it! Love it!

Your Friend,
Ryan

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