In­sur­ance pre­mi­ums poised to in­crease

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John In­gold

Colorado’s health in­sur­ance sys­tem faces a day of reck­on­ing Fri­day, when the state Di­vi­sion of In­sur­ance is sched­uled to re­lease de­tails of the plans pro­posed for the in­di­vid­ual in­sur­ance mar­ket in 2018.

The in­di­vid­ual plans are pur­chased by the 6 to 7 per­cent of Coloradans who shop for in­sur­ance on their own. More than 80 per­cent of Coloradans re­ceive health cov­er­age ei­ther through their em­ploy­ers or through the gov­ern­ment.

But, in an era of in­tense de­bate over the im­pact of the Af­ford­able Care Act and what — if any­thing — should re­place it, Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment is poised to take on dis­pro­por­tion­ate sig­nif­i­cance.

The Di­vi­sion of In­sur­ance will an­nounce how many plans will be of­fered across Colorado and, more sig­nif­i­cant, what in­sur­ers have pro­posed those plans should cost. State of­fi­cials have been sig­nal­ing for months that Coloradans should brace them­selves for large pre­mium in­creases.

Sup­port­ers of Repub­li­can-led health re­form ef­forts have cited those po­ten­tial in­creases as ev­i­dence that the Af­ford­able Care Act, also known as Oba­macare, is col­laps­ing. But a new anal­y­sis calls that nar­ra­tive into ques­tion.

A re­port pub­lished late last month by the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices, the fed­eral agency that ad­min­is­ters the gov­ern­ment’s two big­gest health cov­er­age pro­grams, an­a­lyzed the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s risk-ad­just­ment pro­gram — the wildly com­pli­cated sys­tem that helps bal­ance out risk among pri­vate health in­sur­ers of­fer­ing plans on the ACA mar­kets. The re­port found the pro­gram is work­ing as in­tended.

Na­tion­wide, the re­port found gov­ern­ment-cal­cu­lated risk scores were sta­ble be­tween 2015 and 2016, mean­ing that the in­sur­ance mar­ket wasn’t be­com­ing top-heavy with high-cost cus­tomers as healthy peo­ple fled the sys­tem. As the Kaiser Fam­ily Foun­da­tion has ex­plained, higher risk scores “are as­so­ci­ated with sicker state risk pools.”

“The data … would seem to re­fute the com­monly held be­lief that the mar­ket­place pop­u­la­tion is be­com­ing sicker,” health econ­o­mist Ti­mothy Jost wrote in Health Af­fairs Blog.

Colorado’s risk score in the re­port dropped be­tween 2015 and 2016 and is now the low­est in the coun­try. While many fac­tors con­trib­ute to the risk score — some health ex­perts said it might not be pos­si­ble to evenly com­pare state-tostate — of­fi­cials at Colorado’s ACA ex­change said the re­port pro­vides good news.

“This re­port pro­vides con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that the in­di­vid­ual mar­kets are sta­ble and are not col­laps­ing,” said Kevin Pat­ter­son, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Con­nect for Health Colorado, where con­sumers buy ACA-com­pli­ant plans.

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