Colorado

This just in via Connect for Health Colorado:

More Coloradans Than Ever Are Using Colorado’s Exchange to Get Covered

DENVER — In a report released today by Connect for Health Colorado, nearly 180,000 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan by the end of the Open Enrollment Period on Jan. 15 for 2021 coverage. The new report includes more detailed information about changes to premium costs and financial help by county, the improved customer experience and our outreach tactics.

The main number here is nothing new; C4HCO had already announced the 180K figure back in January. The report itself contains a ton of key demographic stats & details, however, which I'll get to below.

via Connect for Health Colorado:

Connect for Health Colorado Extends Enrollment Period through at least August 15

DENVER — Yesterday afternoon, President Biden announced that the federal health insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov, will extend the current enrollment period through August 15, 2021, to help as many people as possible get covered following the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Connect for Heath Colorado® Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Patterson, released the following statement in response:

“We will follow the federal decision so that we can help as many Coloradans as possible get covered this year. Keeping our doors open through at least mid-August maximizes the number of people who can apply for financial help and enroll through our Marketplace, especially as our state recovers from the pandemic. We will share more details soon about how Coloradans who are newly eligible for benefits under the American Rescue Plan can get those additional savings.”

I actually posted this a couple of weeks ago, but am reposting it as a standalone entry for clarity. Via Connect for Health Colorado:

American Rescue Plan Makes Health Insurance More Affordable for More Coloradans Shopping through the Exchange

DENVER — Yesterday afternoon, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021(American Rescue Plan) into law. Connect for Heath Colorado® Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Patterson, released the following statement in response to provisions which strengthen the Affordable Care Act and increase affordability:

“We are thrilled and getting ready to implement the health coverage provisions outlined in this law. This expansion of financial help will provide greater access to savings on the health plans we offer. This means more affordable health insurance for many more Coloradans.”

This just in via Connect for Health Colorado:

One Month In, More Than 4,000 Coloradans Sign Up During Exchange's Uninsured Enrollment Period

DENVER – 4,683 previously uninsured Coloradans signed up for a 2021 health insurance plan through Colorado’s Exchange between Monday, February 8 and the end of day Friday, March 5. That’s more than 1,000 new medical enrollments each week during the first month of Colorado’s Uninsured Enrollment Period.

That's an average of 180/day over 26 days for Colorado. I don't know exactly how many Special Enrollment Period (SEP) enrollees they had during the same time period in prior years, but I can estimate based on their monthly dashboards:

This was probably inevitable: via Connect for Health Colorado (email):

Colorado to Re-Open Enrollment for Individual Health Insurance 

DENVER – Today, President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order that re-opens enrollment on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. While the order pertains to states that use the federal exchange, HC.gov, Colorado’s exchange, Connect for Health Colorado will mirror the order by re-opening enrollment.

Coloradans without health insurance will be able to enroll in coverage through C4HCO.com between Feb. 8 - May 15, 2021. Health insurance coverage will begin on the first day of the month following plan selection. This Special Enrollment period is for people who are without health insurance and begins a week earlier than the federal exchange.

The wording of this is important: This SEP is for uninsured residents specifically; presumably it is not open to those who are simply looking to switch from one ACA policy to another. My guess is there will be a checkbox or whatever for enrollees to attest that they do not currently have health insurance coverage.

via Connect for Health Colorado (by email):

Nearly 180,000 Coloradans Signed Up for Health Insurance through the Marketplace 

DENVER – 179,661 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan by the end of the Open Enrollment period, according to preliminary data released today by Connect for Health Colorado®. This is about 8 percent above last year’s end of Open Enrollment total. 69% of the customers who enrolled in a 2021 plan qualified for financial help to reduce their monthly premium. 

“I’m pleased that so many people took advantage of this year’s enrollment period,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “It’s essential that we all have health coverage in place to protect ourselves and our families this year.” 

Outside of the Open Enrollment period, Coloradans can still sign up for a health insurance plan through the Marketplace if they experience a Qualified Life Event, like losing job-based insurance, losing Health First Colorado (Medicaid) coverage or due to certain family and income changes. Residents can continue to get help signing up for coverage from certified Brokers and community-based Assisters. 

via Connect for Health Colorado:

Colorado Sees 9% Increase in Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollments Ahead of Jan. 15 Deadline

DENVER — A year-over-year comparison shows Connect for Health Colorado enrollments are currently trending 9 percent higher. Nearly 172,000 people so far have signed up for a health insurance plan through the state’s official marketplace, surpassing last year’s Open Enrollment Period total of 166,850 sign ups.

Hmmm...172,000 is actually only 3.1% higher than 166,850, but I'm assuming they mean it's 9% higher than the number of 2020 enrollments as of January 6th. A 9% final increase would require a final 1/15 tally of around 181,866, so they'll need to tack on another 10,000 or so in the final 9 days.

But there is still time to enroll. With the Jan. 15, 2021 enrollment deadline approaching, Coloradans have just over a week left to choose a plan for coverage that will start Feb. 1.

Last week I wrote about how my friend Laura Packard, along with up to 44,000 others, is in serious danger of losing access to critically important cancer treatment and other services due to a falling out between one of the largest health insurance carriers and one of the largest medical centers in Colorado:

Denver-area Anthem customers on Colorado exchange forced to switch doctors

DENVER (KDVR) — Laura Packard was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkins-Lymphoma cancer in 2017. The 44-year-old moved from Nevada to Colorado in 2019 for one reason: the state’s heath insurance exchange that provides affordable options to individuals who otherwise can’t get coverage.

Doctors at UCHealth have continued to treat Packard to make sure she stays cancer-free.

This is interesting...via Connect for Health Colorado:

DENVER – Connect for Health Colorado®, the official health insurance marketplace for Coloradans, has formally launched a Public Benefit Corporation (PBC).

The PBC will offer health care ancillary products and services across the state as well as work to increase Coloradans’ health literacy.

This new organization will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Connect for Health Colorado and will be a separate entity from Connect for Health Colorado.  It will not affect residents’ ability to buy Qualified Health Plans and apply for financial help through our Marketplace.

On the surface, the purpose of this PBC seems a bit vague...it sounds like it has something to do with the ACA Navigator program to help people shop for insurance on the exchange, to help them enroll in Medicaid and so forth...and those may still be part of its mission.

However, the more important part is this:

I first wrote about Laura Packard here 3 1/2 years ago when she was first diagnosed with Hodgkins, though I've known her personally for a good 15 years or so. When she was diagnosed, her outlook was bleak; fortunately, she has since recovered and is now doing great:

In the spring of 2017, I was diagnosed with cancer (stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma). After a grueling 6 months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation treatment, I am in remission. For now. Hopefully forever.

The Affordable Care Act saved my life. But all the time I was fighting cancer, I had to fight my own U.S. Senator and my President in order to keep my health insurance. The day after my first chemotherapy session, the Republican House voted to dismantle the ACA. The “skinny repeal” of Obamacare was voted down in the Senate by one vote a couple days before my 7th chemo session. And the day after my 15th radiation session, I was thrown out of my (former!) U.S. Senator’s public forum for asking him about his health care record.

It's turned into an annual tradition: The official annual ACA Open Enrollment Period (OEP) runs from November 1st - December 15th, but most of the state-based ACA exchanges have later deadlines. hThen, right around the 12/15 point, it begins: One by one, some of the state-based exchanges announce further extensions of their deadlines to #GetCovered for the upcoming year.

In some cases they simply bump out the deadline for coverage starting in January, with the final "hard" deadline for February or March coverage staying where it is. In other cases they were never allowing Open Enrollment start dates past January to begin with, so it's the hard deadline which is being extended.

In any event, here's this year's batch of announcements; note that this list could grow longer over the next week or two:

via Connect for Health Colorado:

Connect for Health Colorado Offers Coloradans Through Dec. 18 to Enroll in Health Insurance Starting Jan. 1

DENVER — To help as many people as possible sign up for health insurance that begins on the first day of 2021, Connect for Health Colorado has decided to extend the deadline for January 1 coverage to this Friday, Dec. 18.

“Too many Coloradans have been left unemployed, uninsured and are struggling to get by as the pandemic grows,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “By giving people a few extra days this week to get the coverage they need right on January 1st, we can ease some of the strain people are feeling. Financial help is available to reduce costs and local experts can also provide free enrollment assistance.”

Access Lower Premiums and Health Care Costs

via Connect for Health Colorado:

Marketplace Enrollments Trending Higher During Pandemic; Deadline for Jan. 1 Coverage Approaches

DENVER – Through Dec. 6, more than 148,000 Coloradans have signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado. Initial enrollment totals show that more Coloradans are getting covered this Open Enrollment Period as the pandemic grows in Colorado. 

“I’m encouraged that so many people have signed up for a medical plan that will give them the coverage they need. I hope this also gives them some peace of mind going into the new year,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “I urge Coloradans who haven’t enrolled yet to take advantage of the free enrollment assistance we offer. We’re here to help as many Coloradans as possible get covered for January 1st.”

via Connect for Health Colorado:

Coloradans Are Getting Covered During the Pandemic

DENVER – Nearly 30,500 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado’s Marketplace between Nov. 1 and Nov. 20. Through the first three weeks of the Open Enrollment period, approximately 73 percent of applicants qualify for financial help to help pay their monthly premiums.

Unlike many of the state-based exchanges, the Colorado ACA exchange is not "front-loading" their autorenewals of existing enrollees. They address this further down the press release:

“Unfortunately, the pandemic is continuing to grow and affect our communities. That’s why it’s more important than ever that Coloradans have access to affordable and quality health coverage.” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “I urge Coloradans to connect with us online, over the phone, or by making a virtual appointment with a certified Broker or Assister. We are here to make your enrollment as easy as possible.”

Over at Xpostfactoid, my colleague Andrew Sprung has been doing a great job of tracking ACA Medicaid expansion enrollment growth since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic this past February/March at the macro (national) level, by looking at around a dozen states which have monthly reports available. He puts the overall enrollment growth rate at 23.6% from February thorugh October 2020.

I've decided to take a closer look at individual states. The graph below shows how many Coloradoans have been actively enrolled their Medicaid expansion program:

 

h/t to Albus Brooks for the video. Here's the transcript, verbatim:

Q: "IF the Affordable Care Act is overturned, how will you ensure that Colordans who have healthcare through the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion will continue to be covered?"

Back in late July, the Colorado Insurance Dept. released the preliminary 2021 Individual and Small Group Market rate filings. At the time, they came in averaging around +2.2% on the individual market and +5.7% on the small group market.

The final/approved rates have recently been posted, and rates in both markets have been significantly cut down: Individual market rates are now averaging a 1.4% reduction while the increase on the small group market is down to 3.8%.

Republican Senator Cory Gardner is up for re-election this fall, and he's in major trouble. Various polling over the summer has him trailing his Democratic opponent, former CO Governor John Hickenlooper, by around 6 points on average.

Gardner is underwater for many reasons, many of which have to do with his repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act...most recently by voting for the "Skinny Repeal" bill the summer of 2017 which was nipped in the bud by a single vote thanks to John McCain's famous "thumbs down" vote.

The Colorado Dept. of Insurance has released the state's preliminary rate filings for 2021 individual & small group market policies yesterday.

Overall, it looks like Colorado carriers are asking for a weighted average rate increase of 2.2% on the individual market and 5.7% on the small group market. There's some important tables breaking out exactly which carriers are offering their policies in which counties, and they've even broken out the average rate hikes by rating area, which is unusual to see but takes on special significance in Colorado due to thier unusual Section 1332 reinsurance waiver program, which is more robust in some parts of the state than others (I believe most reinsurance programs are pretty much an across-the-board sort of thing, though I could be wrong about that).

A lifetime ago (well, mid-February of this year, anyway), I wrote about New Mexico's Health Care Affordability Fund (HB 278), a bill which easily passed through the state House...only to be inexplicably stopped in its tracks in the state Senate a few days later.

The bill in question wasn't terribly complicated; it essentially just placed a new fee on health insurance carriers to finance a new fund which would in turn be used to reduce healthcare coverage costs for low- and middle-income New Mexicans. Furthermore, since some of the fees would be imposed on managed Medicaid programs which are mostly federally funded, it would have leveraged tens of millions of dollars in federal funding as opposed to all of the fees coming from state residents. Had it gone into effect, HB 278 was expected to generate around $125 million in revenue for the state to use to reduce premiums and cost sharing for enrollees.

I know I've been seriously distracted with my county-level COVID-19 tracking project the past few weeks, but I'm still surprised this bill slipped by me:

Easy Enrollment Moving Forward

Denver -- Connect for Health Colorado® Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson released the following statement on the Health Care Coverage Easy Enrollment Program (HB 20-1236) after the bill passed through the General Assembly: 

“I am excited that we can extend access to affordable health coverage for Coloradans with the simple act of checking a box. Easy Enrollment can provide financial stability and improve health outcomes for thousands of residents, many of whom are unfamiliar with the sign up process, or do not know they qualify for help. Through legislation such as Easy Enrollment, we work toward our goals of reducing the uninsured rate and educating Coloradans on the financial help we provide.” 

via Connect for Health Colorado:

More than 14,000 Coloradans gain health coverage during emergency Special Enrollment Period; Marketplace reports higher enrollments and lower costs in 2020

DENVER — A total of 14,263 Coloradans gained health insurance coverage during Connect for Health Colorado’s emergency Special Enrollment Period, which ran from March 20 to April 30. The Marketplace opened the Special Enrollment Period in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), to ensure as many Coloradans as possible have access to health care.

“We’ve seen a tremendous response to the emergency Special Enrollment Period and need for affordable health coverage,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “As always, we are here to help Coloradans get covered and stay covered as they navigate life changes this year.”

via Connect for Health Colorado:

10,000 Coloradans Covered during Emergency Special Enrollment Period So Far; Marketplace Open to Those with Life Changes

More than 10,000 Coloradans so far have signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado’s emergency Special Enrollment period, which ends Thursday, April 30, 2020. The Marketplace opened the Special Enrollment period on March 20 in response to the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Uninsured residents have nine days left to enroll for coverage that begins on May 1. 

“We created this enrollment opportunity to relieve some stress for thousands of families who are trying to figure out their health coverage needs during this time.” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “I encourage residents who are uninsured to sign up before the April 30 deadline.”  

I've written a LOT lately about the dozen state-based ACA exchanges which have implemented COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Periods for uninsured residents...as well as the two ACA exchanges (Idaho's, which is state-based, and The Big One, HealthCare.Gov, which hosts 38 states) which haven't done so as of yet.

Given how much outrage there's been at the federal government for not opening up HC.gov to a COVID SEP (Idaho has somehow managed to escape notice for making the same decision) by practically every party (even the American Enterprise Institute, which isn't exactly a lefty organization, is calling for one), it's worth taking a look at the states which do have COVID SEPs open to anyone uninsured to see just how many people are actually taking advantage of them.

As I expected, Connect for Health Colorado, which had originally placed a deadline of April 3rd on their COVID-19-specific Special Enrollment Period, has extended that deadline out until the end of April:

Connect for Health Colorado Extends Emergency Special Enrollment Period until April 30 in Response to COVID-19 Outbreak

DENVER — Due to the growing number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and increased need for health coverage, Connect for Health Colorado will extend an Emergency Special Enrollment period for uninsured Coloradans until Thursday, April 30, 2020. 

Since March 20, approximately 5,200 individuals protected their health and safety by signing up for a health insurance plan through this Special Enrollment period. People who enroll during the extended timeframe will have coverage as of May 1. 

via the Colorado Dept. of Regulatory Agencies Insurance Division, it looks like Connect for Health Colorado is about to go ahead and establish their own COVID-19 Special Enrollment Period after all (this is from an internal draft document...the dates could still change, and it's not 100% guaranteed that they'll go ahead with it yet):

DEPARTMENT OF REGULATORY AGENCIES Division of Insurance 3 CCR 702-4 LIFE, ACCIDENT AND HEALTH

DRAFT Emergency Regulation 20-E-02

CONCERNING ESTABLISHING A SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIOD FOR ENROLLMENT IN AN INDIVIDUAL HEALTH BENEFIT PLAN RELATED TO COVID-19

...This emergency regulation is promulgated and adopted by the Commissioner of Insurance under the authority of §§ 10-1-108(7)(a), (7)(b)(III), 10-1-109(1), 10-16-105(2)(b), 10-16-105.7(3)(a)(II)(G), 10-16-105.7(3)(b)(II)(F),10-16-108.5(8), and 10-16-109, C.R.S.

Section 2 Scope and Purpose

SUMMARY OF #COVID-19 SPECIAL ENROLLMENT PERIODS:

ALL OTHER STATES: You may qualify for a 60-day Special Enrollment Period (SEP) if you've recently lost (or will soon lose) your employer-based healthcare coverage, or if you've experienced other Qualifying Life Events (QLE) such as getting marrinew yorked/divorced, moving, giving birth/adopting a child, getting out of prison, turning 26 etc. For these SEPs you may have to provide documentation to verify your QLE. Visit HealthCare.Gov or your state's ACA exchange website for details on the process.

Last October I noted that the state of Colorado had released a report on the latest evolution of their impending State-based Public Option addition to their ACA exchange. At the time, the key specs included:

  • The "State Option" plans are supposed to be available via Connect for Health Colorado starting in 2022 (i.e., they'd enroll starting in November 2021)
  • They expected average premiums are expected to be around 9 - 18% lower than similar policies offered by other carriers
  • Hospitals would be reimbursed at rates ranging from 175 - 225% of Medicare rates

Here's where it got more interesting:

I've written several times before about the multi-state scam being run by "Trinity Healthshare", aka "Aliera Healthcare":

New Hampshire:

The court also found that Aliera is a for-profit company and cannot qualify as a health care sharing ministry under state or federal law. The Insurance Department is concerned about potential fraudulent or criminal activity on the part of Aliera. Since the company may be an illegitimate health care sharing ministry, consumers should be aware that if they remain in an Aliera product, they may be covered by an unlicensed insurance company.

Unity Healthshare, now known as OneShare Health, was authorized by the court to reach out to Unity members about their options, and consumers who have purchased a Unity/Aliera product should be aware that they may be receiving this communication.

Washington State:

This just in via Connect for Health Colorado:

DENVER — Nearly 167,000 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan through the state’s official Marketplace by the end of the Open Enrollment period, according to preliminary data released today by Connect for Health Colorado.

Among the 2020 plan selections, about 20 percent are by customers who are new to Connect for Health Colorado and 80 percent are returning customers. 

“This has been another successful Open Enrollment period,” said Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson. “Now the work continues to increase access, affordability and choice for residents. We are fully engaged with partners at the state and in the legislature to advise and help implement innovative approaches to lower the cost of health care and increase choice.”

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