All Colorado counties will have Obamacare insurance plans in 2018

Vail native and State Sen. Kerry Donovan said she’s glad that all counties in Colorado have access to individual and small group health insurance plans, but is frustrated that her Senate colleagues have made no progress in controlling insurance costs.
Colorado Senate Democrats|Special to the Daily |

DENVER — The good news is that individuals in every Colorado county will have access in 2018 to at least one health insurance plan through the state’s exchange. The bad news is that health insurance will likely cost more, but we won’t know how much more until rates are released later this summer.

A dozen health insurance carriers met Monday’s deadline to submit their 2018 Affordable Care Act plans and premiums for the individual and small group markets to the Colorado Division of Insurance.

‘Politics is getting in the way’

Wall Street analysts had hinted that Anthem would leave 144 Obamacare rating regions around the country without an individual option, including at least 14 counties in Western Colorado.

Anthem won’t pull out, at least for now, and was among the companies submitting plans to Colorado’s Division of Insurance.

Anthem is the only individual insurance carrier in two-thirds of Colorado’s counties, including many mountain counties, and many in Sen. Kerry Donovan’s Senate District 5.

Donovan, D-Vail, has been hammering away at this issue since she was elected in 2014. She says she’s frustrated with her Senate colleagues. Eight Colorado House bills to address health insurance costs have come to the Senate. All eight died on party line votes, she said.

“That’s when politics is getting in the way of helping the people of Colorado. I’m not OK with that,” Donovan said.

Rates are scheduled to be released in July. The results should surprise no one, Donovan said.

“Prices will go up again, and selection will still be limited,” she said.

Residents of Colorado’s resort region already pay among the nation’s highest health insurance rates. When the Affordable Care Act became law, Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin and Summit counties were stuck with the nation’s most expensive health insurance.

Health insurance is expensive because the region has the state’s highest health care costs, says Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar.

Four insurance areas researched

Colorado lawmakers ordered the state’s Division of Insurance to study making Colorado one health insurance region.

In 2014, people in Western Colorado (Area 9) spent an average of $5,532 per person on health insurance, the highest in the state. That’s 36 percent higher than Boulder’s per person cost of $4,073, the lowest in the state.

The study determined that consumers in low-cost areas would subsidize those in high-cost areas.

Western Colorado health insurance rates could fall by as much as 26.9 percent, but Boulder’s rates could jump 17.2 percent, although the Division of Insurance said that depends on how the rates are calculated.

The study looked at four areas of healthcare costs — inpatient admissions, outpatient visits, professional visits and prescriptions. Western Colorado had the highest cost per service in three of the four, landing in the middle of the pack only in prescriptions.

Salazar recommended focusing on controlling healthcare costs as a way to address rising premiums.

“A move to a single geographic rating area would be an attempt to treat a symptom rather than finding a cure,” Salazar said in the report.

About 6 percent of Coloradans buy individual health insurance through the state exchange. Half of Coloradans receive health insurance through their employers, according to the Division of Insurance.

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