Colorado

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.”

Find help at an event near you

Located across Colorado, these events provide educational and enrollment information about health insurance coverage, the application process and financial help through Connect for Health Colorado. While you can’t complete enrollment at all of these events, they are a great opportunity to talk with our network of trusted, certified experts and to schedule appointments.

January 15 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

  • Pueblo Get Covered Walk-in and Enroll
  • Pueblo Get Covered is hosting an open enrollment on Wed, Jan 15 from 8 am - 5 pm at 230 N Union Ave. Pueblo, CO 81003. For more information call 719-583-6611.   Jan 15 is the last day of open enrollment!

January 15 @ 8:00 am - 8:00 pm

via Connect for Health Colorado:

More than 153,000 Coloradans Enrolled in Health Insurance So Far; Less than Four Weeks Remain to Enroll for 2020 Coverage

DENVER — More than 153,000 Coloradans signed up for a health insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado’s Marketplace by Dec. 18, 2019. Approximately 68 percent of applicants qualify for financial help to lower monthly premium costs.

“I am encouraged by the pace of sign-ups so far,” said Connect for Health Colorado® CEO Kevin Patterson.  “However, it’s not too late to get covered for 2020. I urge you to take advantage of the final deadline and all the support we offer by visiting our site, giving us a call, or finding local help in your community.”

The Open Enrollment period in Colorado ends Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Residents who sign up for a health insurance plan by the deadline will receive a Feb. 1, 2020 coverage start date.

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