Colorado insurers request average individual health insurance premium rate hikes of 5.9% for 2019

DENVER – The 16 health insurance companies operating in Colorado have requested average premium increases of 5.9 percent for individual plans and 7.2 percent for small group plans for 2019, the Colorado Division of Insurance announced Friday.

Seven companies plan to offer individual plans on the exchange next year—the same number that offered those plans in 2018. That also means, according to DOI, that every county in the state will have at least one on-exchange company selling individual plans.

Though the average of all requested premium increases for individual plans is 5.9 percent, the increases will be felt hardest for those with gold plans, which will see an average increase of 6.9 percent, and silver plans, which will see an average increase of 12.3 percent, according to DOI. The average premium increase requested across bronze individual plans is 0.9 percent, and for catastrophic plans is 5.2 percent.

And both companies operating under Anthem, HMO Colorado and Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, requested average premium decreases of -0.4 percent and -2.6 percent, respectively.

On the contrary, Denver Health Medical Plan, Inc. is requesting an average premium rate increase of 21.6 percent.

On small group plans, only Kaiser Permanente Insurance Company is requesting an average premium rate decrease of -4.4 percent but is the only small group insurer requesting a decrease. Aetna Life Insurance Company, Humana Health Plan Inc. and Humana Insurance Company are all requesting small group premium rate hikes of more than 14 percent.

In total, 16 companies will be offering plans in Colorado in 2019 and there will be a total of 808 different plans offered: 252 on the individual marketplace and 556 on the small group marketplace.

The rate hikes would be much less steep than they were this year. Individual market plans jumped by an average of 34 percent from 2017 to 2018—a number boosted when President Donald Trump decided to stop making cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies.

“Last year we worked to keep the companies participating in Colorado in the individual market,” Interim Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway said in a statement. “Our efforts this year have concentrated on maintaining and furthering the stability we secured last year. Moving forward, we will be doubling down on our focus to address and attack the ever-increasing healthcare costs that drive premiums and push coverage out of reach for many. For too long Colorado consumers have been forced into the uncomfortable and oftentimes impossible position of paying for ever increasing healthcare costs.”

The DOI says that another recent Trump move, made earlier this month, in which his administration halted another set of payments to insurance companies, could also affect the proposed rates revealed Friday.

“Decisions at the federal level continue to make life interesting. But as we have in the past, we will find a solution to this most recent announcement,” Conway said. “To that end, just this morning, I informed the insurance carriers that we will require that they account for their respective risk adjustment receivables or payables as they are reflected in the July 9, 2018 federal report. I will take any subsequent steps that are necessary to protect Coloradans and maintain market stability.”

The DOI will now review the premium rates requested by the insurers to be sure they’re in compliance with the Affordable Care Act and state laws and justified for Colorado insurance consumers.

The public can file formal complaints about the plans through Aug. 3 before the DOI releases the approved plans and premiums for next year later this summer. It will then host a public meeting to discuss the new plans.

Adam Fox, the director of strategic engagement for liberal health care watchdog Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said he was pleased that rates seem to be stabilizing despite uncertainty on the federal level.

"For a change, most Coloradans aren’t facing massive hikes in their health insurance premiums for next year. This really shows the strength of the Affordable Care Act, that despite ongoing GOP sabotage, Colorado’s insurance premiums are more stable this year," Fox said.

The new rate requests come on the heels of a new report from the nonpartisan Colorado Health Institute that shows that for the first time ever in 2017, fewer than half of Coloradans obtained their health insurance through their employer as more people receive health insurance coverage through Medicaid, Medicare or the individual market.

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