Colorado Health Insurance Companies Seek 27 Percent Premium Spike

Photo: Doctor examining child mouth (iStock)

Colorado health insurance companies want to increase premium rates by almost 27 percent on average next year, the Colorado Division of Insurance said on Friday.

Every insurance company in the state health care exchange asked for increases that range from 12 to 40 percent for individual medical plans. Premiums for plans that are supplied by employers, small group medical plans, have smaller increases ranging from 3 to 27 percent.

Indecision in Washington, D.C. is making insurers nervous and driving up premiums, said Marguerite Salazar, Colorado's insurance commissioner.

“They were very concerned,” Salazar said of insurance companies. “They didn't even know if they would continue to have an individual plan. So it’s the instability that’s causing this high increase.”

At least one carrier plans to offer individual insurance plans in every county across the state, a state-issued press release said. Though that may change “if the lack of clarity at the federal level continues.” Roughly 7 percent of Colorado residents, or about 450,000 people, buy individual plans.

Cigna Health & Life Insurance proposed the highest increase at 41 percent. The final rates still need to be approved by the Colorado Division of Insurance.

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

“We sit down, we look at what they’ve filed, their justification for stating that they need 41 percent, where are they going to be, all of those things,” Salazar said. “And if we decide that they've got to come down, then we will sit down and have a negotiation.”

Insurance rates for 2018 will be finalized in the fall. In past years, rates have usually gone down from the original proposals.

Last year, rates rose about 20 percent for the individual market and hit the rural areas in Colorado the hardest. With the possibility of an even higher spike this year, Salazar encourages customers to reach out to their congressional offices and voice their concerns.

“Let them know how you feel and how this is going to impact you,” Salazar said. “We need to keep the pressure on them to say any dramatic changes could totally topple the market for Colorado. We’ve had such good stability in the past that I would hate to see it become a place where there’s only one or two plans or carriers for the individual market.”

Requested Insurance Premium Increases for Individual Medical Plans
CompanyAvg. Requested Change
Anthem (HMO Colorado)30%
Anthem (Rocky Mtn. Hospital & Medical Service Inc.)34%
Bright Health Insurance Company15%
Cigna Health & Life Insurance 41%
Colorado Choice Health Plans29%
Denver Health Medical Plan, Inc.13%
Freedom Life Insurance Company of America27%
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado24%
Rocky Mountain HMO12%

CPR News' John Daley contributed to this report.