Insurance premiums poised to increase
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.