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Health Insurance Companies Likely to Ask State for Big Rate Hikes

Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is set to launch a new program to help consumers navigate especially complex situations and to push back against unfair health-care costs and practices. (Pixabay)
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is set to launch a new program to help consumers navigate especially complex situations and to push back against unfair health-care costs and practices. (Pixabay)
June 13, 2018

DENVER – Coloradans could see another big increase in health insurance costs. Companies must submit next year's rate requests to the state's Division of Insurance by Friday.

Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said moves made by the Trump administration to weaken the Affordable Care Act have destabilized the market, and in some states, insurers have asked for 30 percent to 60 percent increases – and for a 90 percent hike in Maryland.

Fox said the good news is that financial assistance is available through Connect for Health Colorado.

"If premiums increase, the amount of assistance increases as well to help offset those premiums," he said, "and people who may not have qualified before for financial assistance may now be eligible for it."

Fox noted that state lawmakers missed opportunities in the last session to address rising costs, and added that work still needs to be done to bring new options to the Western Slope where 14 counties have just one insurer available in the individual market.

The Trump administration has pushed to let insurers offer cheaper plans with less coverage that are likely to appeal to younger, more healthy consumers. In the recent tax bill, Congress repealed the federal mandate requiring people to have some form of health insurance.

If healthy people don't buy insurance, Fox said, companies will want to offset health costs for people who need more care by raising premiums for everyone else. Fox warned that consumers who pick plans with limited coverage are at increased risk of ending up on the hook for big medical bills.

"And we may see again an increase in bankruptcies due to medical bills," he said, "all of which has decreased under the Affordable Care Act because people have more robust insurance coverage."

The DOI is expected to announce final rate increases in September, after public input, which is due by Aug. 1.

Fox's group also is planning to launch a new program to help consumers navigate especially complex situations and to push back against unfair health-care costs and practices. He said the new Consumer Assistance Program will help draw lawmakers' attention to areas in most critical need of policy solutions.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO