Summit County individual buyers to see 29% decrease in health insurance premiums next year
FRISCO — Summit County and Western Slope residents who buy their own health insurance on the state’s health care marketplace will see a steep — if temporary — drop in their insurance rates next year.
The Colorado Division of Insurance and Gov. Jared Polis’ office confirmed Tuesday, after receiving rate submissions from insurance carriers, that individual consumers in insurance region nine will see a 29% drop in their insurance premiums from 2019 rates, alongside an average 18.2% drop for individuals statewide, once the state reinsurance program is implemented in 2020.
This rate decrease — not applicable for people who get their health insurance through their employers — would represent the first time individual premium decreased since the state health care marketplace, known as Connect for Health Colorado, was introduced in 2013.
The 29% slash in premiums is welcome by individual consumers on the Western Slope, who have paid among the highest insurance premium rates in the nation since the exchange was introduced.
The reinsurance program — which still requires federal approval for a health care innovation waiver — is funded by state and federal money totaling $260 million and will act as a pool for insurance companies to draw from for extremely expensive individual medical claims among the 250,000 people in the individual marketplace. The program is meant for short-term relief and will expire in 2022.
In terms of dollars, an average Western Slope family of four that gets its health insurance on the marketplace will see a reduction of up to $9,000 a year.
“This is an enormous win for Summit residents,” said Tamara Drangstveit, executive director of the newly formed Peak Health Alliance. “The average savings for a family of four is enough to pay for a year of child care and helps families actually start saving for a house, let alone just get health insurance.”
“I had tears in my eyes when I heard how significant these rate reductions will be,” said state Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon), a prime sponsor of the reinsurance bill. “From the very beginning of my campaign, I heard from working families about the high cost of insurance, and our reinsurance program is making a significant reduction in that cost. I am so excited to see members of my community and five counties I represent experience relief from the high cost of health care.”
State Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), who also represents Summit County and was a prime sponsor for the bill in the senate, was quoted in The Denver Post as saying the bill had been long in the making, but he warned it did not address the root of sky-high insurance rates: the high cost of providing health care.
Even though the program is temporary and does not address the bigger factors for high insurance rates, Polis sees the slashed rates as a win for his administration.
“Reducing health care costs for Colorado families has been a primary focus of my administration, and today we are seeing the first signs that our hard work is paying off,” Polis said in a news release. “The thousands of dollars people save can go to buying a home, saving for college or retirement, or whatever Coloradans want to do with it.”
McCluskie said federal approval of the waiver for the reinsurance program is likely in the fall, given that seven states already have received approval.
She also acknowledged that the reinsurance program is a temporary fix and that innovations like Summit County’s own Peak Health Alliance may be the key to attacking the core problem of health costs.
“After those two years, we need to look at programs like Peak Health Alliance to be the long-term, sustainable path forward to provide cheaper health care to our communities,” McCluskie said. “I am hopeful that when the alliance goes live next year, it will combine with savings from the reinsurance program to result in greater reductions in health insurance premiums.”
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