Health insurance prices in Colorado will go up next year

Coloradans who buy their health insurance on the state exchange — rather than through an employer — will see rates increase by 10.4 percent next year. Rates will increase by 7.4 percent for small employers with up to 100 employees.

The Colorado Department of Insurance announced Tuesday the final rates for 2023. Open enrollment is from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15, 2023.

Consumers now have the chance for the first time to buy a plan through the Colorado Option, a quasi-public health insurance program that is a top priority of Gov. Jared Polis’ administration.

The program “allows participants to better understand what they’re paying for and prioritizes mental and physical wellness designed to better support overall health,” said Lt. Gov. Diane Primavera, who also leads the People’s Money Savings Office in healthcare.

The administration is touting what it calls “innovative programs” created with state lawmakers that could save the state $326 million on individual health insurance plans next year. This includes the state’s reinsurance program, which helps insurers, the Colorado Option and the insurance department’s rate review process. It says the programs “result in significant savings.”

A consumer health group said rural consumers would generally face larger increases. He noted that the increases come on the heels of news that Bright Health is leaving the marketplace, meaning roughly 55,000 Coloradans will have to change their insurance plan.

“After several years of relatively stable health insurance prices, Colorado consumers will feel these increases, especially in rural areas,” said Manath Singh, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “Insurers and hospitals are not making enough effort to meet required reductions for some Colorado option plans, but instead are setting a baseline of failure to meet targets without reasonable justification.”

More than 300 plans in the state

According to the state’s insurance department, there will be 337 individual plans available across the state. This will include plans offered through the Colorado option in the Bronze, Silver and Gold tiers. The plans are roughly evenly split between those offered through Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance exchange, and those sold directly through insurance companies. Subsidies for more affordable insurance are only available when enrolling through the exchange.

Six companies will offer individual plans through 2023: Anthem (as HMO Colorado), Cigna, Denver Health, Friday Health, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado and Rocky Mountain HMO.

All but one county in rural Colorado (Jackson, which borders Wyoming) has multiple companies offering plans on the exchange, the department said.

Eleven companies will sell nearly 500 small group health plans, including 48 Colorado Option plans. This category is for employers with up to 100 workers.

Withdraw plans for the Colorado option

A group representing insurers says the new environment means fewer carriers offering plans, less competition and higher premiums.

The Colorado Association of Health Plans said in a statement that nearly all of the lowest-cost products in the individual market are not Colorado Option plans, but “non-standardized products created by health insurance providers that continue to offer choice and affordability to consumers in Colorado at a time of unprecedented inflation.

Decisions made by the Polis administration regarding the program “were fundamentally at odds with the stated goal of saving people money on health care,” said Amanda Massey, the group’s executive director. “We fully support market-based policies that actually reduce costs, but Colorado’s policy outcome shows, for the first time in the nation, that the administration chose politics over math.”

Another group opposed to the Polis administration’s plan characterized the new program as “difficult.”

“It is clear that they are trying to put a positive spin on the failure of this new government-controlled health insurance system,” Health Care Future of Colorado said in a statement.

Aids and subsidies

The state said consumers can find savings by shopping around and noted that financial assistance through federal inflation-reduction measures means more than four in five people who shop for coverage through the state exchange will be eligible for subsidies in 2023.

“I encourage everyone to visit Connect for Health Colorado to determine what financial assistance they can receive and shop for the plans that fit their needs,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway.

This week, Humana informed local regulators and insurance brokers that it will exit the employer group’s medical business in Colorado. In a statement, the company said it includes about 15,000 people employed through the employer group’s Colorado marketplace.

Colorado Politics first reported the change.

Humana did not give a reason. He said the move does not affect Medicare, dental, vision or life insurance plans. All affected plans will end by mid-2024.

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