Connect for Health Colorado off to an up and down start

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Colorado is not off to the best of the start when it comes to people signing up for the Affordable Care Act.

According to officials with Connect for Health Colorado, only 226 people signed up for the ACA during the first week of enrollment this month.

“It’s going really well,” said Ben Davis, the director of the Colorado-run healthcare exchange Connect for Health Colorado.

Colorado is one of 14 states running its own healthcare exchange. The state spent $21 million marketing the exchange. Most of the $21 million came from federal grants. The bulk of the advertising was spent on television and radio ads in both English and Spanish, and billboards at Denver Broncos football games.

“Look, if you spent $21 million on a bake sale and sold 10 dozen muffins, that would be a complete disaster,” Republican Rep. Cory Gardner told the Associated Press.

Colorado hopes to enroll 136,000 people in health insurance programs through Connect for Health Colorado by the end of 2014. That goal will never be met at the current pace of enrollments.

So far, Colorado has signed up less than half the number of people in seven days as Rhode Island did in three days. Kentucky, which is also running its own healthcare exchange, enrolled 18,000 people in its healthcare program, commonly known as Obamacare, by Oct. 9.

Colorado has about 350,000 uninsured residents who aren’t eligible for Medicare.

“This is a much more complicated purchase than buying a T-shirt at gap.com,” Davis said. “We expect people to take their time and really weigh their options, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Colorado’s health exchange website experienced technical glitches and error messages, but officials said they were being addressed. The Colorado website seems to be performing better than the federal website that is being used in 36 states.

According to Adam Fox with Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, during the first week the Colorado exchange logged 162,941 unique visitors. Of those, 18,174 accounts were created with 226 shoppers that purchased plans.

If shoppers are unable to finish the application process or aren’t able to purchase a plan on line, they must call one of the marketplace’s customer service centers. The largest center is in Colorado Springs at the El Paso County government offices on Garden of the Gods Road.