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Health Insurance Costs Rising, But More Slowly


Thursday, June 18, 2015   

DENVER – Every year, Colorado's Division of Insurance reviews proposed increases in health insurance rates, and consumer comments are factored into its final decisions. The process has saved Coloradans $240 million since 2009, and more than $46 million in 2014 alone.

Matthew Valeta, health policy analyst with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, says it's important to confirm that insurance companies aren't passing unnecessary costs onto consumers.

"We're trying to make sure the consumer perspective is taken into account," he says. "If rates are going up significantly for certain consumers, this is going to have a really tough impact on a lot of Colorado families. We want to make sure that voice is heard in the process."

For 2016, over 1,200 plans were submitted for review. Valeta says he found that cost increases across plans varies, which isn't new – but since the passage of Obamacare, Valeta says the rate at which premiums are rising has slowed.

According to Valeta, consumer experiences since the Affordable Care Act went into effect have been mixed. After leaving her job at a bank, Kylie Holub of Fort Collins says she was able to get coverage through Connect for Health Colorado, the state exchange. She describes her expectations as "pretty low."

"I was like, 'Oh, I'm going to get this, they're not going to really cover anything, it's just going to be a money pit.' And it really hasn't been," she says. "All my blood work was covered. That can be quite a pricey thing. What I've gotten from it so far has been wonderful."

The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative says all signs point to lower health insurance costs in 2016.

Since the initial Obamacare surge in 2014, which enabled people with pre-existing conditions to receive coverage, more healthy people are expected to sign up. Valeta says the penalty for not having insurance is going up next year, which should bring more young people into the pool.

"Two-point-five percent of your income is really a significant amount," he says. "So people who might otherwise have stayed uninsured will start to say, 'You know, this is a lot to pay to not be insured at all, so maybe I need to look into how much it will cost to get insurance.'"

Although Colorado's review process is good, Valeta adds the state can do more. Holding public hearings, giving consumers advance notice of proposed rate hikes, making insurers accountable for keeping costs down and improving quality of care are all on his list for going forward.

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