When elected officials play politics with health care, consumers are the ones that lose
DENVER – In response to today’s announcement by the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) largely granting health care insurers the 2018 rate hikes they requested, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) warned that these large premium increases could have been prevented. CCHI pointed to a chain reaction started by Congress and the Administration that has disrupted the individual insurance market that approximately 400,000 Coloradans rely on.
The Congressional Republicans’ failed efforts to repeal the ACA combined with the Administration’s wavering on issues like whether to pay out cost-sharing reduction payments has created uncertainty in the insurance market. This uncertainty, combined with claims experience, high prescription drug prices, and less competition in some areas of the state, drove up the insurance companies’ rate filings. Today, the DOI granted most of the insurers’ requested rate increases, meaning consumers who cannot access financial assistance will pay higher prices for their health care.
“The irresponsibility of this Administration and Republicans in attacking the stability of our health coverage systems is simply astounding,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “While one party looked for ways to roll back access and affordability rather than making constructive efforts to fix the private insurance market, rates have gone up and consumers will bear the cost.”
In June, Colorado’s health insurers requested a wide range of potential premium increases. In our comments to the DOI, CCHI:
Acknowledged that insurers were grappling with the marketplace chaos created by both the Republican Congress and President Trump’s efforts to sabotage the ACA;
Noted a reliance on apparently weak data and contradictory justifications;
Expressed concern that the insurance rate documents lacked transparency, consistent standards or easy access for the public to weigh in.
The Division of Insurance examined the basis for these increases and largely approved the requested premium increases, meaning consumers will face an average 26.7% increase on average in the individual market. However, DOI did reduce Cigna’s requested 41.2% increase to 30.9% and bumped Bright Health plan’s request from 15% to 27.4% to ensure their solvency.
“While these increases will be offset by tax credits for many Coloradans, Colorado has a higher percentage of people not using tax credits to enroll that will get hit by these rate hikes. These Colorado families are facing painful increases in their 2018 premium prices.”
Anthem’s rate increase of 30.2% was approved, meaning in the 14 counties where Anthem is the only carrier option, Coloradans will again see substantial premium increases. Kaiser, with the bulk of the individual market enrollments through Connect for Health Colorado, is allowed a 24.4% average increase.
Fox continued, “Republicans in D.C. have already cost consumers in these substantial increases to next year’s premiums, and the Trump Administration continues to sabotage the individual market by slashing funding for marketing and outreach. This change alone will lead to lower enrollments, a sicker insurance pool, and higher premiums next year. Our elected officials need to look at common-sense, bipartisan ideas like those presented by Colorado’s Governor to stabilize the individual market.”
Coloradans could still be at risk of even higher premiums unless Congress or the Administration finally commit to fully fund cost-sharing reduction payments for multiple years. These final rates assume those payments will continue, but insurers would undoubtedly ask DOI to use the higher secret rate increases they submitted if the cost-sharing reductions are not funded.
The increase in premiums does mean more Coloradans will qualify for financial assistance to lower their premiums, and those that already qualify, will see their tax credits increase to offset the increase in premiums.
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative represents 45+ Colorado health organizations with more than 500,000 health care consumer members, advocating for high-quality, affordable and equitable health care for all Coloradans.