Colorado health insurance costs to fall on average, but some counties see increases

The monthly cost of insurance bought through the exchange in Colorado will drop an average of 1.4% next year, according to filings with the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Your costs depend on where you live, though. Some counties on the Eastern Plains will see 12% increases in their monthly premiums, while Park County residents could pay 12% less, on average.

In Denver, the average premium will drop 1.2%, though surrounding counties will see bigger decreases. The average can conceal significant differences among companies, however, and customers have to consider the trade-off between higher premiums and higher out-of-pocket costs when they need care.

State officials estimated premiums will be about 20.8% lower than they would have been without reinsurance. The reinsurance program acts as a backstop for insurers, so they’re reimbursed some of the cost of covering customers with higher medical bills. It’s not clear what will happen to that program if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act, because the law included a provision allowing states to experiment with ways to lower premiums, including reinsurance.

Adam Fox, deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said reinsurance has helped, but it may be difficult to find an affordable plan in the 10 counties where only one insurer is selling on the exchange.

“Unfortunately, some carriers are still increasing rates in some areas, and any rate increase during this public health crisis is too much for many Coloradans who are already struggling,” he said in a news release.

Gov. Jared Polis said more needs to be done to lower the cost of health care. It’s not clear what might gain traction when the Legislature returns next year, however, since proposals for sweeping changes were derailed by the pandemic.

“My administration is committed to helping save people money even more on health care and the bipartisan reinsurance program is already delivering real results for hardworking families and individuals across our state,” Polis said. “But we can’t rest on our laurels, we must do more to drive down health care costs.”

The Division of Insurance had initially anticipated an increase in premiums, based on rates insurers filed earlier this year. It ordered insurance companies that wanted to sell individual plans on the state-run exchange not to build in the cost of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, and not to set rates that increased their profit margins.

Premiums in the small-group market, which isn’t affected by reinsurance, will rise about 3.8%. The small group market is open to businesses with no more than 100 employees.

Open enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15. If you need coverage starting Jan. 1, however, you’ll need to sign up by Dec. 15. People who lose a job or experience other major life changes can sign up throughout the year.

To view rates in your county, visit the Division of Insurance website.

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