Hickenlooper Considers Hardball Response If Anthem Pulls Out Of Health Exchange

Photo: Anthem Denver Building 2 - JDaley
The Anthem building at 7th and Broadway in Denver, Colo.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said he's considering blocking insurance giant Anthem from state health care insurance contracts if it leaves the state's Affordable Care Act exchange.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield is weighing whether to pull out of Connect for Health Colorado.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, told Colorado Matters on Wednesday that barring Anthem from the state's lucrative Medicaid contracts is one of many options he's considering.

"We've certainly talked about that," Hickenlooper said, "... as a way to try to provide motivation that more insurers cover all parts of the state — or at least a number of parts of the state."

Asked to comment on the governor's idea, Anthem spokesman Tony Felts said Wednesday night in a statement only that, "We are maintaining an active dialogue with state leaders and regulators regarding the stability of Colorado's individual market and our participation in Connect for Health Colorado."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a similar plan earlier this week. Hickenlooper noted that New York has far more Medicaid clients than Colorado does, which gives the Empire State more leverage in negotiating with insurers.

Anthem has more than 37,000 customers on the exchange, making it the third-largest carrier selling plans on the individual market.

Kaiser Permanente is another key player in the market. Spokeswoman Amy Whited said late Wednesday the governor's idea of using incentives to create statewide coverage options was news to the organization, and it had no official comment for now.

Apart from changes to Medicaid contracts, Hickenlooper said the state is also considering subsidizing doctors and clinics for under-served areas.

"We're going to to continue to try and look at how else can we encourage and stimulate coverage in all parts of the state," Hickenlooper said.

If Anthem exits, 14 Colorado counties would be without an insurer on the exchange. The deadline for insurers to submit their 2018 plans to Colorado is June 19, 2017.