All Colorado residents will have access to health care in 2018 through the Connect for Health Colorado online exchange. That’s because Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Colorado has once again committed to be part of the individual insurance market.
If Anthem had not committed for 2018, citizens in 14 Colorado counties would not have had an insurance option through the state’s insurance exchange. But Anthem will continue to offer individual plans statewide in all counties next year. In fact, Anthem offers 15 different plans, at different costs.
“That’s very crucial for those folks,” said Vincent Plymell, communications director for the Colorado Division of Insurance, which is part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies. “If Anthem had pulled out, they wouldn’t have an on-exchange carrier. There are a couple off-exchange but then those people wouldn’t be able to access [government] subsidies” to make the insurance more affordable.
“There are another 20-plus counties that have only two carriers on-exchange in 2017, including Teller and Pueblo, so this decision by Anthem is important for those counties as well,” Plymell said.
He said there could have been other repercussions if Anthem had not returned to the exchange.
“You have to think also, if they had pulled out, what kind of domino effect would that have on the market?” he said. “Would others pull out, or could they absorb it?”
Plymell said it’s the first year that Colorado didn’t lose any carriers from its insurance exchange. He also said Colorado seems to be in better shape than many other states when it comes to number of carriers.
As of July, Plymell said there are 192,931 Coloradans getting their insurance through Connect for Health Colorado. There are about 450,000 Coloradans obtaining insurance in the individual market — rather than from an employer, or government programs like the Veterans Administration, Medicare of Medicaid – or about 7.5 percent of the state. Plymell said a little more than 50 percent of Coloradans — and for people across the United States — get health insurance through an employer.
“The fact that we didn’t lose any on-exchange carriers for the coming year speaks to our efforts,” said Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar in a press release. “In this sea of turmoil stirred up by the federal government, Colorado has created an island of certainty. Our willingness to keep the lines of communication open and work with carriers like Anthem, Cigna and Kaiser highlights the fact that Colorado is a good place for these companies to operate. We are especially pleased that Anthem will continue to serve residents in the 14 counties that would have had no other options. All of the carriers in the individual market have helped us to secure a stable market for 2018.”
For 2018, the insurance companies offering individual plans through Connect for Health Colorado (on-exchange) will be the following.
- Anthem (HMO Colorado)
- Bright Health Insurance
- Cigna Health and Life Insurance
- Colorado Choice Health Plans
- Denver Health Medical Plan
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado
- Rocky Mountain Health Maintenance Organization
Still, Salazar said, maintaining insurance coverage is not easy these days.
“… while many breathe a sigh of relief, I recognize that the coming year will remain challenging for others in Colorado, with premiums increasing, healthcare costs rising, and uncertainty continuing around the Cost Sharing Reduction payments,” she said.
Mike Ramseier, president of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Colorado, expressed satisfaction that his company will again be part of the exchange.
“Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is proud of our 75-year history of providing health benefits to individuals and their families across the state,” he said. “That commitment will continue in 2018 statewide. Still, the individual market in Colorado remains volatile. We appreciate the open communication we’ve had with the Division of Insurance regarding steps that can be taken to stabilize the individual market. As this market continues to evolve, we stand ready to work with the DOI and state leaders on long-term solutions that will improve the health care system for all Coloradans.”
The division is still reviewing the plan and premium filings from the health insurance companies that were submitted in June and made available to the public in July, both for the individual market and the small group market (for small employers). The final approved plans and premiums, along with analysis regarding what plans are available where and average increases/decreases, will be released sometime from mid-September to mid-October. These filings are available to view on the DOI’s “Health Insurance Filings” web page. Note, however, that the public comment period closed Aug. 4.
Open enrollment for people who buy individual plans (rather than getting coverage through an employer) will open Nov. 1 and run until Jan. 12. People buying individual plans can buy them through Connect for Health Colorado, or off-exchange (often directly from an insurance company). However, tax credits to help offset the cost of premiums are only available when purchasing from Colorado’s exchange.