Cover Story Rural Health Care

Clients wait to sign up for insurance at Connect For Health Colorado, the state's health care exchange in Denver in a 2014 photo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

Health insurance premiums are expected to increase by over 11% in Colorado’s individual market and over 9% in the small employer market in 2023, according to the Division of Insurance.

The division released the proposed premium increases Tuesday, using preliminary insurance company filings for 2023. In the individual market — health insurance plans separate from employers — premiums are expected to raise by 11.3% on average from 2022 prices. For the small employer market — businesses with 100 or fewer employees — premiums should raise by 9.2%.

The Division of Insurance said it is reviewing the filings to make sure the increases are justified and comply with state and federal law, but the division celebrated that the expected increases aren’t higher.

“We are setting a national precedent by offering more affordable coverage for our neighbors across the state," said Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, director of the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care. “I’m really proud of all the work that the Polis-Primavera administration has been able to accomplish to ensure access to high-quality and affordable health care for all Coloradans, including the Reinsurance Program and Colorado Option.”

The Reinsurance Program automatically pays a portion of high-cost claims for individual health insurance plans, allowing insurance companies to lower premiums. The Division of Insurance said, without the program, insurance premiums would be expected to increase by 34% in 2023, instead of 11.3%.

However, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative argues that the success of the Reinsurance Program should be keeping insurance rates even more stable. The health advocacy nonprofit claims that insurance companies may be using inflation as an excuse to drive up premium costs despite maintaining or increasing their profits.

“Even as reinsurance keeps premiums for Coloradans down, and as we see more companies offer plans in more counties, health insurance continues to be unaffordable for too many Coloradans,” said Mannat Singh, executive director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. “Premium rates must be reasonable and justified; the industry shouldn’t use the ongoing pandemic or inflation to hike company profits.”

Singh said her organization will be investigating the filings to push back on the proposed premium increases. The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative estimates the premium increases will hit some Coloradans harder than others, with eastern and western Colorado seeing average increases of 21% and 19.2%, respectively.

The public comment period for the proposed 2023 premium increases ends on Aug. 1. The Division of Insurance said it will release the final, approved insurance plans and premiums in mid-October.

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