“34,000 Coloradans saw the value of these plans”
DENVER – The Colorado Option enrollment numbers released today by Governor Jared Polis in his State of the State show that he, our lawmakers, and advocates did the right thing in expanding access to affordable health care coverage by passing the Colorado Option in 2021. In its first year, 34,000 Coloradans chose Colorado Option plans. This means that the Colorado Option has already gained a significant share of the individual insurance market and that the model is a success.
“It shouldn’t be surprising that Colorado beat national trends with our CO Option insurance enrollment because we gave people what they said they wanted,” said Jake Williams, CEO of Healthier Colorado. “For years, Coloradans said they needed affordable, quality insurance. The Colorado Option delivers that. This is a testament to the leadership of the advocacy organizations, the Governor, and the legislature. They built a plan with robust benefits that truly responded to their needs.”
Roughly 24,000 Coloradans enrolled in Colorado Option plans through Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An additional 10,000 Coloradans gained coverage with Colorado Option plans for the first time through the new OmniSalud program that allows low-income people left out of the ACA, like those with DACA status or who are living without documentation, to enroll in insurance with financial assistance.
“During the open enrollment period that ended on January 15th, Coloradans shopped around and many determined that the Colorado Option plans were the best choice,” said Adam Fox, deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative “Coloradans saw the value of these plans that provide more care up front with no out-of-pocket costs. That includes free primary, behavioral, and pre- and post-pregnancy care visits.”
Colorado Option plans have a standardized benefit structure that is focused on providing more care up front without a cost; that improves access to care and helps address racial and health inequities. They also ensure all prescription medications can be obtained with a copay instead of coinsurance to make these costs easier to predict. Additionally, there is plenty of opportunity for the benefits and plan design to improve based on consumer experience. The state can continue to receive feedback and further tailor the plans to meet the needs of Coloradans.
“Some in our health care system have been trying to avoid accountability,” said Fox. “But the health care industry will be held accountable with new tools and public hearings for Colorado Option plans if they fail to reduce premiums. With this increased transparency, we will ensure the industry meets the requirements Coloradans deserve, which will make the Colorado Option plans that much more effective next year.”
Beginning this spring and summer, if insurance carriers fail to meet the 10 percent premium reduction required, there will be a public hearing where they will have to provide a justification and the Division of Insurance will have new tools to hold health care entities accountable to ensure the premium reductions are met. The Division of Insurance has already released preliminary dates for these hearings; Coloradans can participate in the process if their insurer does not meet the target reductions.
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, membership-based group advocating for equitable access to high-quality, affordable health care. CCHI serves Coloradans whose access to health care and financial security are compromised by structural barriers, affordability, poor benefits, or unfair business practices of the health care industry.