Health Insurance Rates across Colorado to Rise Modestly in 2019, Ending Years of Double-Digit Increases

By Rodgers, Jakob | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), October 4, 2018 | Go to article overview

Health Insurance Rates across Colorado to Rise Modestly in 2019, Ending Years of Double-Digit Increases


Rodgers, Jakob, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO)


Colorado’s health insurance market appears to be stabilizing after years of steep, double-digit rate increases and threats of insurers leaving the state.

Health insurance rates for Coloradans buying their plans on the state’s individual market will rise an average of 5.6 percent in 2019, the Colorado Division of Insurance announced Thursday. Also, the same seven insurers will remain in Colorado next year.

It marks a distinct change from the volatility of recent years, when health insurance rates skyrocketed and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

For example, average rates rose more than 30 percent in 2018 and more than 20 percent the year before.

But that’s changing in 2019. Insurers appear to finally understand where to set their prices — and how to cover so many new people — in the age of the Affordable Care Act, said Michael Conway, interim commissioner of the Colorado Division of Insurance.

“We have a fairly competitive marketplace, and that was vitally important to set the stage for this year and that stability,” Conway said. “The market is probably at the point where it’s properly priced for the market as it exists today.”

Colorado isn’t alone in enjoying that stability. With insurers continuing to turn profits, many other states recorded only moderate rate increases — or, in some cases, even decreases — for 2019, said Rabah Kamal, policy analyst for Kaiser Family Foundation.

“Going into next year, insurers are doing pretty well, so they can’t necessarily justify a steep premium increase,” Kamal said. “And some insurers are correcting for overpricing in previous years.”

The rate increases only pertain to a customer’s premium, which is the monthly cost of their plan.

The rates also only apply to people on the state’s individual market, which do not include government- or employer-provided health insurance policies. The individual market encompasses 8 percent to 9 percent of Colorado’s population.

While the state’s overall average rate increase is 5.6 percent, the actual prices of those insurance plans vary widely by company.

For example, monthly rates for plans sold by Anthem will decrease 2.6 percent. That’s due to a requirement in the Affordable Care Act that limits the profits that insurance companies can reap in certain instances.

Meanwhile, Denver Health’s plans will increase an average of 21.6 percent. The carrier only insures a relatively small number of people in the Denver metro area, meaning that only a small number of pricey medical bills can have an outsized effect on rates, Conway said.

All other carriers on the state’s individual market expect single-digit rate increases in 2019.

The single-digit price increases come despite 2019 being the first year that people will no longer face a tax penalty for going uninsured, due to the repeal of the individual mandate.

Uninsured rates are expected to skyrocket with the mandate’s repeal, with 13 million more people expected to become uninsured by 2027, according to the Congressional Budget Office. …

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