John Ingold, The Denver Post

A Colorado health care advocacy group has asked state regulators to restrain proposed 2018 health insurance premium increases, saying the higher rates are not justified.

In a letter, leaders of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative urged state Commissioner of Insurance Marguerite Salazar to push insurers to accept lower premium increases in the individual market, where people buy health insurance on their own. The group said the proposed increases — an average of 27 percent across all insurers and the entire state — are too high based on cost trends in the state. It also argued that insurers provided contradictory information in asking for the high increases.

“Such steep rate increases may mean the difference between accessing life saving health care or not,” Caitlin Westerson and Terrell Blei of CCHI wrote in the letter.

The group submitted its letter earlier this month, just prior to the deadline for public comment on the increases. The Division of Insurance is reviewing the proposed increases, and it has the authority to reject them or ask insurers to accept lower amounts if it determines that the increases are not sufficiently justified. Final rates will be announced this fall.

The proposed increases only apply to the individual market, where people buy their own health insurance and which covers about 8 percent of Coloradans. About half of Coloradans receive health insurance through their employer.

Salazar has blamed the “Trump effect” in part for the proposed premium increases, and some insurers did suggest that uncertainty over health care policy at the federal level pushed them to ask for higher rates than they otherwise would have. But other insurers argued that they have struggled to make money in the individual market since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the law also known as Obamacare.

The CCHI letter, though, points to a federal study released earlier this year that gave Colorado’s individual insurance market the lowest risk score in the country.

“We would ask that this year’s proposed rates be scrutinized to ensure projections are not based on national trend data, which, consequently, would not account for the relative condition of Colorado markets,” the letter states.

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