Colorado

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.

Pages