By: Kat Gruschow, Policy Fellow
I was 15 when my parents divorced. Divorce can have long-lasting impacts on adults and children alike, but my family grew accustomed to many of them. My brother and I acclimated to moving back and forth across town each week. My parents learned how to fill the nights they weren’t caring for their children. A few weeks ago, my brother began college, and with us out of the house, it seemed like the last daily reminders of the divorce had faded from our lives.
However, a recent conversation with my mom shattered that belief. She mentioned that she does not have health insurance. When my parents separated, she lost her coverage under my dad’s employer-provided plan and found herself in health insurance limbo. She makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid but doesn’t think she can afford the premiums of plans on the marketplace. Despite her best efforts to put the divorce and all its negative consequences behind her, she’s reminded of it every time she feels sick or needs a prescription in the anxiety she feels anticipating the costs.
And she’s not alone. In 2021, 6.6% of Colorado’s population remained uninsured. Despite sounding like a small number, approximately 380,000 Coloradans are going without coverage, and eighty-one percent of uninsured respondents cite high costs as the primary reason. Being uninsured has serious negative consequences on individuals’ health. Without coverage, people are less likely to have regular outpatient and preventative care, more likely to be hospitalized for preventable health problems, and experience overall declines in their health. While it may seem like a small outcome of her divorce in the scheme of all the other life-altering changes, my mom’s loss of coverage can negatively impact her health for the rest of her life.
Unfortunately, my mom doesn’t live in Colorado. But, if she did, come November 1st, she would be able to change that future because, for the first time, insurers will offer Colorado Option plans on the individual and small business marketplace.
Colorado Option plans are health plans with the same benefits and cost-sharing regardless of carrier and which, importantly, cost less than other plans. The average premiums for Colorado consumers are predicted to increase 11.3% next year, but all insurers must offer Colorado Option plans with premiums 5% lower than 2021 levels (adjusted for medical inflation). And regardless of inflation or other economic changes, insurers must work with healthcare providers to lower premiums yearly until 2025 and increase costs by no more than medical inflation after that. This means the plans will be more affordable for many Coloradans historically left out of coverage, and the plans will stay that way.
Not only are Colorado Option prices lower, but individuals will also pay less, or often nothing, for accessing primary, behavioral, perinatal, and preventative diabetes care. For my mom, this would mean affordable monthly premiums and visit costs she can manage.
And, since all Colorado Option plans offer the same essential health benefits, comparing plans is easy. Rather than struggling to understand which services each plan covers, consumers can focus on which insurer provides the best quality care, network in their area, and price based on their expected needs.
My mom, or someone like her, could log in to Connect For Health Colorado, see which insurance carriers offer the best network and quality in her area, easily compare coverage, and end her seven years without health insurance. The weight of one of the few remaining impacts of the divorce could finally come off her shoulders.
Although HB21-1232 was passed in 2021 and may be old news to many, the approach of the first open enrollment period during which Colorado Option plans are offered calls for renewed celebration.
Not having health insurance impacts individuals’ mental, physical, and financial well-being, and far too many Coloradans still lack coverage.
Individuals who still struggle with high healthcare costs despite the expansion of federal tax credits aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the low-cost Colorado Option plans. HB21-1232 included provisions targeting the racial inequities pervasive in Colorado’s healthcare system and ensured all Coloradans, regardless of immigration status, can access the plans.
Colorado is only the second state to offer a standardized plan, but other states are watching closely for the successful implementation of HB21-1232. CCHI is committed to ensuring a successful policy implementation, and I am too. I hope to see the day my mom–a Wyomingite–can finally afford health insurance and leave the last daily reminder of her divorce behind.