health insurance

The Common Sense Institute is releasing an insurance market analysis Wednesday that will detail Colorado's lower insurance premiums the last three years.

Colorado's individual and small group market got twin boosts from the stabilization of the Affordable Care Act marketplace and from Gov. Jared Polis and the legislature, the report said.

In 2019, Polis signed a bill creating a "reinsurance" market that puts high-risk, high-cost insurance buyers in a separate, subsidized pool to lower rates for everyone else. The state Department of Insurance reported an 18.1% reduction last year, the program's first.

This year legislators are debating a bill that would ask insurers to reduce rates by 20% in two years, or the state would create a below-market policy based on price caps and other limits. Opponents contend the bill cuts too deeply and will hurt access to services, especially in rural communities and mountain towns.

Colorado went from having the 27th lowest average benchmark premiums to the sixth lowest between 2019 and 2021. The average fell by 28%, or $137, the Common Sense Institute said, based on data from the Colorado Division of Insurance.

There's more, the business think tank says: Passage of the American Rescue Plan Act and the infusion of federal stimulus money will increase subsidies for those in the individual market.

"The cost of individual health insurance has been at the forefront of state policy discussions for the past three years," the analysis states. "However, during this time, the dynamics of the individual health insurance market created by the federal Affordable Care Act which caused rapid increases in costs have dramatically shifted in Colorado. "

Rural areas and mountain communities have seen the greatest reductions above the statewide average, according to the Common Sense Institute.

Premiums fell by an average of 37.6% in the western part of the state and 23.5% on the eastern part, the data shows.

Premiums also will benefit from more plans available to rural areas by more Affordable Care Act insurers.

The Common Sense report said availability of individual health plans in some rural areas and mountain communities because of the unsteady start and regulatory conditions when the state's ACA marketplace was created a decade ago.

"However, insurance carriers are turning this trend around," the brief states. "This year, only 10 of the state’s 64 counties – representing 2.5% of the state’s population – have only one insurance carrier offering ACA individual plans."

Just a year ago there were 22 one-company counties.

The individual and small group marketplace represents about 15% of the state's insurance market.

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