Colorado ranks ahead of all other states in a recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that provides 2016 national data detailing the stable health mix among individuals and families who buy their own health insurance.
Colorado ranked second behind California in the 2015 report.
“I was really happy to see we improved — it’s always nice to know which direction you’re headed — and it’s great to know it’s positive,” said Luke Clarke, the director of communications for Connect for Health Colorado.
The report calculates an “average risk score” for states, and Colorado’s score of 1.26 is well below the national average of 1.69. That means the overall healthcare costs for Coloradans buying their own insurance — including those who buy through Connect for Health Colorado and those who buy directly from health insurance companies — are expected to be 25 percent lower than the national average, based on age, sex and health.
“That 25 percent refers to Colorado as a whole, and that’s driven by the larger cities on the Front Range,” Clarke said. “Rural costs for health care — where there aren’t as many choices for coverage — are higher.”
A lower risk score indicates a healthier mix of people buying insurance. Colorado’s score in 2015 was 1.37.
Clarke suggested the tendency for Coloradans to live a healthy lifestyle, including outdoor activities, contributes to the state’s No. 1 ranking.
“That helps,” he said. “Colorado has a well-deserved reputation for being active and more healthy. We have the lowest obesity rate at 20 percent.”
Entitled “Summary Report on Transitional Reinsurance Payments and Permanent Risk Adjustment Transfers for the 2016 Benefit Year,” the report found that the Affordable Care Act “functioned smoothly” in 2016 as the market for families and individuals buying their own health coverage continued to grow.
“This report provides convincing evidence that the individual markets are stable and are not collapsing,” said Kevin Patterson, executive director of Connect for Health Colorado. “The federal data demonstrate that individual markets are attracting a balanced risk mix, not just in Colorado but across the country. This is important to keep in mind as Congress considers national healthcare policy.”
The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services compiles the data as part of federal programs to protect health insurers whose members have higher than average cost for care.
“We have seven providers on our marketplace in Colorado, selling to individuals and families,” Clarke said. “All seven have filed to be part of the exchange again next year.”
The seven providers are Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Bright Health, Cigna, Colorado Choice Health Plans, Denver Health Medical Plan, Kaiser Permanente Colorado and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
“Bright Health was a new company that came to Colorado this year,” Clarke said. “Having seven providers is above average; like any business, some are succeeding and some aren’t.
“Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, we’ve had more carriers than most states our size. Colorado is a business-friendly environment, and that’s been our objective from the get-go, to have a competitive market because that benefits consumers.”
Lower risk scores are common in states that operate their own marketplace, as Colorado does. Those states averaged a score of 1.52 in 2016. The scores did not change dramatically in 2016 from 2015, another indication of stability in the individual market.