No insurers leaving Colorado health exchange in 2018, commissioner says

But premiums could increase for those in the individual insurance market
By  John Ingold The Denver Post

June 21, 2017 at 10:25 am

After months of worry, Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar said Wednesday that no insurers are backing out of the state’s health care exchange for 2018, but consumers in the individual insurance market should expect to pay more.

Salazar said nine companies filed plans with the state this week to offer individual insurance plans in 2018. That includes all seven insurers currently offering plans on Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance marketplace where all the plans sold meet Affordable Care Act requirements and are eligible for federal tax credits to help pay the premiums.

Insurer exits from exchanges in other states — most notably in Missouri and Ohio — could leave consumers in some counties there without any options to choose from next year. Salazar said she was worried as late as last week that some counties in Colorado could join those, as insurers — especially Anthem, which is the only insurer on the exchange in 14 Western Slope counties — wavered.

But, when the deadline came Monday to file 2018 plans, Salazar said all the Colorado exchange’s insurers returned and every county had at least one carrier offering plans.

“For today, it’s business as usual,” she said.

The next step is for regulators at the Colorado Division of Insurance to review the proposed plans and determine if their rates are fair. Salazar declined to comment on the proposed rates but said that insurers were asking for increases and no insurer had asked to lower its premiums. The rates won’t be released to the public until next month.

The individual health insurance market is where people who buy health coverage on their own shop for plans. About 6 percent of the state shops in the individual insurance market. Meanwhile, half of Coloradans receive health insurance through their employers.

Because the individual market is so closely tied to big-picture federal health reform laws, like the Affordable Care Act, the ups and downs of the market are often seen as a barometer of the laws’ efficacy.

This year, Salazar sent members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation a letter warning them that uncertainty surrounding health policy at the federal level could cause premiums in the individual market to skyrocket. She cited the ongoing question of whether the Trump administration will continue to pay for cost-sharing subsidies that help low-income customers pay their deductibles. The subsidies — which amount to billions of dollars a year nationally — are separate from the more well-known tax credits used to pay for premiums.

Salazar said insurers still don’t have guarantees on the subsidies. As a result, she is allowing insurers in Colorado to file an additional set of rates next month that reflect what prices they would charge in 2018 if the Trump administration announces it won’t fund the subsidies.

“I said, ‘Look, this is probably a smart thing to do,’” she said.