Colorado health insurance rates climbing higher next year

Denver Health Medical Center on S. Federal Blvd.
David Zalubowski/AP
A patient checks in at the desk in Denver Health Medical Center’s primary care clinic located in a low-income neighborhood in southwest Denver, March 9, 2017.

Coloradans who buy their health insurance on the state’s exchange — and not through an employer — will see rates increase by 10.4 percent next year.  The rates will rise 7.4 percent for small employers with up to 100 employees. 

The Colorado Division of Insurance on Tuesday announced final rates for 2023. Open enrollment runs Nov. 1 through Jan. 15, 2023. 

Consumers now have the chance for the first time to buy a plan through the Colorado Option, a quasi-public health insurance program that’s been a marquee priority of the administration of Gov. Jared Polis.

The program “allows participants to better understand what they are paying for and prioritizes mental and physical well-being intended to better support total wellness,” said Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, who also directs the Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare. 

The administration touted what it calls “innovative programs,” created along with state lawmakers, which can save $326 million statewide on individual health insurance plans for next year. That includes the state’s reinsurance program, which helps insure insurers, the Colorado Option, and the insurance division's rate review process. It said the programs are  “driving substantial savings.” 

A consumer health group said rural consumers will generally face higher increases. It noted the increases come on the heels of news Bright Health is exiting the market, which means roughly 55,000 Coloradans will need to change their insurance plan.

“After several years of fairly stable health insurance prices, Colorado consumers are going to feel these increases, especially in the rural areas,” said Mannat Singh, the executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “Insurers and hospitals are not making enough of an effort to meet the required reductions for some Colorado Option plans, but are instead setting a baseline for failing to hit the targets without reasonable justification."

More than 300 plans in the state

According to the state’s division of insurance, there will be 337 individual plans available across the state. That will include plans offered via the Colorado Option, in the bronze, silver and gold metal levels. The plans are roughly evenly divided between those available through Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance exchange and those sold directly through insurance companies.  Subsidies to make insurance more affordable are only available when enrolling through the exchange.

Six companies will offer individual 2023 plans: Anthem (as HMO Colorado), Cigna, Denver Health, Friday Health, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado and Rocky Mountain HMO. 

All counties, except one in rural Colorado (Jackson, which borders Wyoming), have multiple companies offering on-exchange plans, said the division. 

Eleven companies will sell nearly 500 small group health plans, including 48 Colorado Option plans. That category is for employers with up to 100 workers.

Push back on Colorado Option plans

A group representing insurers says the new landscape means fewer carriers offering plans, less competition and higher premiums.

The Colorado Association of Health Plans said in a statement almost all of the lowest cost products in the individual market are not Colorado Option plans, but the “non-standardized products built by health insurance providers that continue to offer choice and affordability to Colorado consumers in a time of unprecedented inflation.”

Decisions made by the Polis administration regarding the program “were fundamentally contradictory to the stated goal of saving people money on healthcare,” said Amanda Massey, the group’s executive director. “We fully support market-based policies that actually drive down costs, but the result of Colorado’s first-in-the-nation policy shows the administration chose politics over math.”

Another group opposed to the Polis administration’s plan characterized the new program as “struggling.”

“It is clear they are attempting to put a positive spin on the failure of this new government-controlled health insurance system,” said Colorado’s Health Care Future, in a statement.

Assistance and subsidies

The state said consumers can find savings by shopping around and noted financial assistance through the federal Inflation Reduction Action means more than four out of five people that shop for coverage through the state exchange will be eligible for subsidies in 2023.

“I encourage everyone to visit Connect for Health Colorado to determine what financial help they could receive, and shop for the plans that fit their needs,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway.

This week, Humana informed local regulators and insurance brokers that they would leave the employer group medical business in Colorado. In a statement, the company said that includes about 15,000 people employed through the Colorado employer group market. 

Colorado Politics first reported the change. 

Humana did not give a reason. It said the move does not impact Medicare, dental, vision or life insurance plans. All impacted plans will end by the middle of 2024.