Colorado: 13% of @C4HCO enrollees choose #ColoradoOption, including 10K undocumented residents via #OmniSalud

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via the Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (h/t Christine Monahan for the heads up):

Approximately 35,000 Coloradans Chose the Colorado Option During the 2023 Open Enrollment

  • Insurance Commissioner Conway: “We’re working on making this program even better.”

DENVER - As announced by the Governor during his State of the State speech, the preliminary 2023 open enrollment figures for the Colorado Option make it clear that the Coloradans are excited and want the Colorado Option. 

As of January 10th, approximately 35,000 people have enrolled in Colorado Option plans - approximately 25,000 through Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance marketplace, and another 10,000 via OmniSalud. 

The Colorado Option consists of health plans with standard benefits from all current individual and small group health insurance companies. These standard benefits are the same across all companies, allowing consumers and businesses to easily compare and choose plans that fit their needs. In addition to covering all essential health benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Colorado Option plans offer free primary care and free mental health health visits, and have been designed to improve access, affordability, and racial health equity.

Colorado Health Insurance Shoppers Chose Wisely
The approximately 25,000 Coloradans enrolled in Colorado Option plans through Connect for Health Colorado represents approximately 13% of the 2023 open enrollment that concluded on Jan. 15 (Connect will be sharing more detailed enrollment data in the coming months). It also shows that Coloradans want plans that offer a better value, with $0 primary care, mental health visits and diabetic supplies, as well as more predictable costs. 

Connect for Health Colorado announced over 192K QHP enrollees during the 2023 Open Enrollment Period as of January 10th, so this checks out (13% of 192,000 = 24,960). I assume there was a final-week enrollment spike of some sort which will presumably be announced soon.

“I am extremely proud of the work of our team at the Division of Insurance. Kyle Brown, Kyla Hoskins and the rest of the DOI team built a Colorado Option plan that people are obviously excited about. In Washington state, their public option only had approximately 1% of total enrollment in its first year. The fact that we are at 13%, far surpassed my hopes for what we would achieve in our first year. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Not only do these plans create more competition in our insurance market, they offer a better value to Coloradans, with many services that lead to better health outcomes offered at no-cost or low costs,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway. “There is certainly more work to be done. Knowing that the people of Colorado want and will search for the Colorado Option makes that work even more rewarding.” 

Public Hearings Start This Year
For this year, insurance companies were required to have premiums for Colorado Option plans that are 5% lower than 2021 premiums (with adjustments for inflation). For the 2024 Colorado Option plans, premiums must be 10% lower than 2021 premiums and for 2025 plans, they must hit a 15% reduction target. And starting this year, the DOI will have the ability to hold the industry accountable for meeting the target, set by the legislature, through hearings if the industry fails to do so.

With all the fuss & bother about a Public Option over the years, the biggest question is whether it's able to successfully deliver quality, comprehensive healthcare coverage at a lower cost than fully private health insurance. It'll be fascinating to see how this develops in Colorado (as well as Washington and other states where various PO versions are in place or in the works). Regardless, as noted above, this is an important next step forward.

The Commissioner will enforce premium reductions through the Division's rate review and a new public hearing process. Later this year, companies must file their Colorado Option plans with premiums that meet the statutorily required reduction. If a company cannot meet the reductions, the Commissioner of Insurance will hold public hearings during the summer of 2023 for the plans for 2024.

“The ability to hold hearings and bring more accountability to the system will be a huge departure from the ‘business-as-usual’ that has been so prevalent for years in the health care industry,” said Commissioner Conway. “When the issue of health care costs and insurance premiums come up, the insurance companies point at the hospitals and other health care providers, and those same providers turn around and point back at the insurance companies. Hearings will give the Division and the public the chance to stop that back and forth and dig into the matter.” 

The Colorado Option
The Colorado Option was enacted through HB21-1232, which was signed into law by Governor Polis in June 2021. The law was sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, Rep. Iman Jodeh and Senator Kerry Donovan. This legislation tasked the Colorado Division of Insurance with developing the standard benefits for the Colorado Option plans that the health insurance companies sell. The Division created these standard benefits after a lengthy stakeholder process. Stakeholders said they wanted health insurance that made prices easier to understand, while reducing what people paid when getting medical care, especially for care that is of high value, like primary care and mental health, as well as prescriptions and labs.