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Insurance Rate Proposals Present Challenges, Opportunities

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016   

DENVER -- Costs for individual health-care coverage could increase by as much as 40 percent next year, if insurance companies get their way with the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Insurers paid more claims than anticipated because people enrolled in individual plans have used more health-care services, according to the division's preliminary report. Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said the agency's next step is to see if the proposed rate hikes add up.

"If they don't, they will be asking insurers to reduce their rates," he said. "As we have seen in years past, that ends up saving Colorado consumers millions of dollars."

Fox said the initial filing shows that small employer plans could see single-digit increases or even lower premiums. He added that individuals who qualify for financial assistance through Connect for Health Colorado would get additional tax credits to help defray any rate increases.

While United and Humana will not offer individual plans in 2017, he said, the introduction of Bright Health -- a new insurer -- could help keep rates competitive. He noted that the proposed increases are especially troubling for areas of the state where fewer plans and carriers are available, and more needs to be done to bring health costs in line.

"We really need to grapple with the underlying health-care costs," he said. "Health insurers should be doing more to control costs, but they don't have all the keys to that, and we really need to get a better handle on the underlying costs."

Because the Division of Insurance has the authority to make sure premium increases aren't discriminatory and are justified based on 2016 costs, Fox said, it's important for consumers to weigh in on the proposal by contacting the agency directly.

The DOI report is online at colorado.gov.


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