by Caitlin Westerson, Policy Manager

Today, we learned that every county in the state will have at least one carrier offering health insurance plans through Colorado’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, in 2018. Up until the filing deadline on Monday, many health care advocates and consumers were left wondering what their options would look like for the upcoming plan year. Amongst the uncertainty in health insurance right now, we frequently find ourselves asking questions about what the future market will look like. While times are especially trying for federal health care reform efforts, the rate and plan information filed by carriers in Colorado on Monday will soon be made available to the public, hopefully lending itself to some much needed insight into what the plans will look like, and how much they will cost consumers. 

In preparation for this rate and plan filing process, CCHI looked to the past to learn more about health insurance market trends. We evaluated health insurance plan availability, types, and cost sharing trends in both the individual and small group markets from 2014 through 2017. This analysis lends itself to two key takeaways:

  1.  There has been significant market shake up. The industry’s response to the changing regulatory structure can be seen in the fluctuations in the number of overall plans offered, and in which companies participate in the market year over year.
  2.  Deductibles have increased, and provider networks have constricted. Changes in plan benefit designs and cost sharing requirements for consumers demonstrate the industry’response to experience in the new markets. 

So the question remains: what do these trends mean for consumers? Now, more than ever before, consumers have to pay for choice. Higher premiums are the trade off for a wide network of doctors, or a plan with lower cost sharing. Alternatively, in the current market, consumers can choose managed care plans with narrow networks and less choice of providers and facilities—albeit with lower premiums.

CCHI strongly encourages changes to make health insurance benefit designs more consumer friendly, and to build on the health care reforms since the implementation of the ACA. This includes more transparency around health insurance plans, continuing to provide free preventative care, incentivizing high-value services, and exposing more information about quality and prices in health care. These changes can reduce the chance of consumers ending up under-insured, and will improve meaningful choice in the market.

When we began this analysis, we anticipated that the volatility in the marketplace would level out, and we would see some stability moving forward. Instead, we are on the precipice of more changes that could dramatically affect health care reform, leaving us to wonder: will these trends continue? 

For a full analysis of health insurance plan availability, types, and cost sharing trends in the individual and small group markets from 2014 through 2017, check out our Colorado Health insurance Market Trends Report. Be sure to also check out its companion Infographic for high-level takeaways. 

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