Blair Miller, The Denver Channel ABC 7

DENVER – Individual health insurance plan premiums on the state exchange will go down by an average of 20% across the state in 2020, with even higher average reductions in some rural areas, the state announced Thursday.

The rate reductions were somewhat expected, after the preliminary rate asks in July showed an average 18.2% expected decrease across all plans. But Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway on Thursday lauded the even-lower rates.

They said that the state’s passage of a reinsurance program during this year’s legislative session, which was approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in July, was one of the more-important factors in the premium reductions for next year.

Polis and Conway said in a news release that average decreases across all plan tiers in each county range from 15.5% to 34% — an average of 20.2%.

They said that some rural parts of the state could see average decreases over 30%. But the number of counties offering only one company on the state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, would be going up – from 14 to 22 next year.

Kaiser and Friday Health Plans both stopped offering individual plans in certain counties, causing the increase. But the state said that three of the counties Kaiser is leaving did not have any enrollment with the company, and the same could be said about Friday Health Plans in six counties.

Statewide, all the same companies that offered individual plans on the exchange will be back for 2020, in addition to one new company, Oscar Health. The state said eight companies are offering 130 total individual plans on Connect for Health Colorado.

“These decreases translate into real savings for Coloradans,” Conway said in a statement. “These big premium decreases will give more people the opportunity to access health care for themselves and their families. For those with coverage today, these premium decreases will make life easier, which is why we come to work every day.”

Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, who sponsored the reinsurance bill this year, called the drop “big news.”

“Health insurance rates sold on the individual market will be falling dramatically, and the typical family of four living in the mountains and some rural areas of our state will see a savings of over $10,000 next year,” she said in a statement. “Every Coloradan deserves access to high-quality, affordable health care services close to home, and the General Assembly worked tirelessly this past year to deliver on this basic human right. From Colorado hospitals and insurance carriers, to the lawmakers who cosponsored this legislation, I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of all the partners and stakeholders who helped secure this reduction in health care costs.”

“Plan prices and benefits change every year. We hear from customers that their medical needs, budgets and household situations also change,” said Connect for Health Colorado Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to compare plans and think about the total costs of care before making a selection.”

“This is especially good news for rural Coloradans who have been struggling with exceedingly high premiums,” said Colorado Consumer Health Initiative Executive Director Adela Flores-Brennan. “Average premium decreases in the rural areas and mountains will range from 27.7-30 percent, meaning Coloradans in these areas will see a bit of much-needed relief.

Colorado Hospital Association President and CEO Steven Summer said the association was “pleased” with the news.

“While other data sources may lag a few years, premiums are a leading indicator of where Colorado is on health care costs,” Summer said. “…The next step is to work on a more sustainable program targeting the total cost of care.”

For more information on the plans and their county-by-county effects, click here.

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