All Insurers Back On Colorado’s Exchange, No County Loses Coverage

Photo: Anthem Stay Or Go 2 | Marguerite Salazar - JDaley
Marguerite Salazar works in the state's Department of Regulatory Agencies as the insurance commissioner.

Colorado’s insurance commissioner says every county in the state will have a carrier offering plans on the state’s exchange.

Up until Monday’s deadline for insurance companies to file their intentions it was unclear if insurance giant Anthem, or another carrier, might back out of selling plans on Connect for Health Colorado. But 12 carriers submitted 2018 plans, and there will be at least one in each county.

“I was pleasantly surprised," said Marguerite Salazar, the state insurance commissioner. "I thought as early as last week that that might not happen.”

There’s still a lot of uncertainty as insurers watch Republican efforts in Congress to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, she added, and said she’s urging the Trump administration to commit to keep funding subsidies that reduce customers’ out-of-pocket costs. Those subsidies also provide stability to carriers.

The division is reviewing the proposed plans and premiums and will make them public July 14.

Salazar says premiums will go up, perhaps in the range of 25 percent for some plans. And much of that is driven by uncertainty in the insurance market as potential reforms unfold in Washington.

"I am pretty confident we're going to see some increases," Salazar said. "How big? I just don't know quite yet."

Most exchange customers qualify for federal premium tax credits, which often helps to limit the impact of increases in insurance premiums.

In recent months, some insurers have pulled out of state exchanges, like Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee.

Much of the attention in Colorado has been on Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which was weighing whether to stay or depart.

It's the third largest carrier on Colorado's individual insurer market with more than 37,000 customers on the state's exchange. Making matters particularly dicey, Anthem is the only insurer on the exchange in 14 rural Western Slope Counties. If it had pulled out, customers would have been scrambling to find insurance for 2018. Many would have been forced to pay higher premiums, or go without.

Still, Salazar says insurers could still decide not to sell plans for 2018, if changes to the health insurance system by congressional lawmakers in the American Health Care Act drives their costs up too much.

"If the current version or even a close version of the AHCA passes, we're probably going to have to go back to square one," Salazar said. "Hopefully whatever changes happen will not happen until 2019 or 2020. We're just cautiously watching to see what happens. I'm glad that they (lawmakers) are going to release copies of the bill on Thursday so we can know what we're up against."