Colorado insurance commissioner blames Trump administration for uncertainty, 27% rate hike requests

27% avg. hike in individ. market; 7.5% small group

DENVER – Colorado’s insurance commissioner is blaming the Trump administration for playing games with the health care market and saying it is causing instability in the insurance marketplace that might be to blame for large premium hike requests for operators in the state for 2018.

The Colorado Division of Insurance on Friday released the premium rate request hikes for individual and small group markets operating on Colorado’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, for 2018.

The average request hike for all plans across the state on the individual market is 27 percent, and the small group market average premium request across all the companies planning to offer plans next year is 7.5 percent.

Premiums went up 20 percent this year on the individual market, so the 27 percent hike request across all plans in the state would be an increase over this year’s hike.

Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar says that the high hikes are a product of uncertainty for insurers in the marketplaces.

“It remains pivotal that the Trump administration stops using people’s access to health care as a bargaining chip and commits to funding the Cost-Sharing Reductions in 2018,” Salazar said.

“These premium increases are not a surprise,” she continued. “I believe that the dubious situation at the federal level has contributed to the premium increase requests we’ve seen from the companies.”

Those sentiments were shared by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.

“The signs that the market was stabilizing should encourage Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it. If the Senate bill passes, Coloradans will see tax credits decrease, seniors charged more, and more rate increases,” said CCHI’s Adam Fox. “We believe insurers should be working with providers to improve quality and keep coverage affordable by addressing the underlying health care costs instead of responding to the chaos created by Congress and this Administration.”

The requests will now be open to public comment through Aug. 4, and the Division of Insurance will continue reviewing the plans to be sure the requests made by insurance companies are in line with the rules laid out under the state exchange operating under the Affordable Care Act.

In that review, the division will be sure that the premiums will be enough for insurers to pay patient’s claims, whether the requests are justified or not, and whether the plans meet the tiered requirements under the state marketplace.

As the division said late last month, as of now, each county in Colorado will have at least one carrier operating in each county in 2018, though that will still be subject to what happens over the next few weeks with the Republican attempts in Congress to pass a new health care law.

“The insurance companies have indicated to the division that they may be forced to reevaluate their participation in the marketplace if the lack of clarity at the federal level continues,” the Division of Insurance said in a news release Friday.

There has been concern since the beginning of the year that Anthem, which was the only insurance company offering a plan in more than a dozen counties on Colorado’s Western Slope, may pull out of the state exchange and leave those counties without an insurer operating in their counties.

But as of right now, only one company that offered a plan in Colorado is leaving next year: the Golden Rule Insurance Company, which is a subsidiary of UnitedHealthcare and only offered an off-exchange, individual plan this year.

As of right now, 17 companies plan to offer individual or small group plans next year in Colorado. There will be a total of 204 plans offered on the exchange, and 614 offered off of it, if current submissions hold true.

There are seven companies that submitted premium rate requests on the individual medical plan market, and 13 that currently plan to offer small group plans next year.

But the Division of Insurance says it believes one company, the National Foundation Life Insurance Company, will offer an individual plan, though it did not file for a rate increase.

On the individual market, the average premium requests for each company are all at least 12 percent., but at least three insurers requested hikes of over 30 percent.

On the small group plans, the rate hike requests are much smaller. The highest came from Colorado Choice Health plans, which requested at 27.3 percent hike. But Rocky Mountain HMO requested a rate reduction, and many of the other requests were single-digit hikes. Aetna Health Inc. and Aetna Life Insurance Company will offer new plans for 2018 on Colorado’s small group market.

This year, around 92,000 Coloradans had to change their plans after four different carriers either pulled out of or tailored the number of plans they were offering on the state exchange.

The U.S. Senate is expected to try and force discussion, and then a vote, next week on its revised version of the health care bill Republicans want to use to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, as many of them have promised to do over the past several years.

But its success in the chamber hinges on a handful of Republicans who will have to support the bill and who currently sit on the fence in that regard.

Should the Affordable Care Act stay intact as-is, open enrollment would begin again Nov. 1.

For more details on the 2018 insurance rate requests in Colorado, click here. For more nonpartisan analysis of the rate hike requests from the Colorado Health Institute, click here.

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