Thinking back on our story as we look forward

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

This week’s election reminds us of our bipartisan roots and the continuing oversight of Connect for Health Colorado by representatives of both political parties.

We had the opportunity to meet early with members of both governor campaigns and we continue to work with the incoming administration.

It’s good to remember that the original idea for a state health insurance marketplace (they called it a “Connector” then) originated with a panel formed by Republican Gov. Bill Owens. A Democrat, Bill Ritter, occupied the governor’s mansion when the group delivered its recommendation and our outgoing Gov. John Hickenlooper was in office to sign the legislation when Republican and Democratic legislators passed a bill creating the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, which does business as Connect for Health Colorado.

That bill ensures that legislators in the minority and in the majority party share seats on our 10-member legislative oversight committee and each party names members to our board of directors.

We congratulate all the voters and candidates who participated in Tuesday’s election and we look forward to working with new friends and old friends at the capitol.

In the News

Voters in Idaho, Utah and Nebraska approved measures Tuesday to expand Medicaid, increasing the number of expansion states to 36, according to a Washington Post account. Changes in administrations resulting from the election could see the total rise to 38 states.

Service Update

We have added personnel and we are fine tuning the telephone technology as we continue to see a large number of 2019 plan selections and challenging call volumes.

We are grateful for all the early interest in getting 2019 health insurance in place, but especially for your continued patience and support in this work.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

We launched our sixth Open Enrollment Period yesterday and we are seeing call volume well ahead of our projections and above levels that we have seen in the past. Our new eligibility and enrollment systems are handing the traffic well, but we know many of you calling our Customer Service Center are waiting on hold longer than we are comfortable with. We are working on solutions and we will communicate them to you as soon as they are identified.

We don’t know for certain what has driven so much early interest and driving the number of calls so much higher. Our analysis of the rates and plans offered by our health insurance company partners may be part of it:

  • On average, Connect for Health Colorado customers renewing for 2019 with financial help will see a drop in their net premium of 24 percent.
  • Three out of four customers renewing with financial help will have the option of buying 2019 coverage for less than $50/month net premium.
  • Two out of three of those customers receiving financial help could purchase a bronze plan for $0 net premium.

As good as these averages are, we know there are variations in different areas of the state. It is as important as ever that our customers review all their options and look beyond the premium alone and at the total cost of coverage and their own individual situation.

Planning note: Be aware that because of the Veterans Day observance on Monday, November 12, our November board meeting will be Monday, November 19.

In the News

You have probably heard a lot about short-term health plans. The Kaiser Family Foundation put out an issue brief this week that you may find useful in your conversations on how they compare with the Qualified Health Plans sold through Connect for Health Colorado.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

DENVER — Connect for Health Colorado opens for business Thursday, November 1, with rate increases lower than the state has seen in years, a streamlined application process that will save Coloradans time obtaining financial assistance and all seven health insurance companies are returning in 2019, in a sign of a stabilizing marketplace.

More than 130,000 Coloradans got help paying for health insurance in 2018. Renewing customers qualifying for financial help will see their net premium – their cost after the Advance Premium Tax Credit – go down 24% on average in 2019.

Connect for Health Colorado has introduced a streamlined financial help application that can take roughly half the time to complete as last year’s.

“We are committed to making enrolling in health insurance and getting financial help easier for everyone in our state who buys their own health insurance,” said Connect for Health Colorado Chief Executive Kevin Patterson. “This year that financial help was like an 80% discount on health insurance. Too many people assume they make too much to qualify for help.”

Analysis shows that three out of four of Coloradans who bought their health insurance with financial help through the Marketplace this year will have an option for health insurance with a net premium (after financial help) less than $50 per month in 2019.

Two out of three of the Connect for Health Colorado customers who qualify for financial help will be able to find a bronze level plan for $0 net premium. Bronze level plans are the lowest premium tier but come with higher deductibles and other out of pocket costs than silver and gold level plans.

The seven health insurance companies offering coverage through Connect for Health Colorado in 2018 are returning for 2019 with the similar number of plan offerings in each region of the state, a sign of a stabilizing market in Colorado.

Open Enrollment runs from November 1, 2018, to January 15, 2018, but consumers need to enroll by December 15 to have coverage in place by January 1, 2019.

About Connect for Health Colorado

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  Since 2013, we’ve been helping individuals, families and small employers compare plans, apply for financial help and buy health insurance. As Colorado’s official health insurance marketplace, we are the only place to apply for financial help to lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access expert, in-person help from a statewide network of certified Brokers and community-based Assisters. For more information:  ConnectforHealthCO.com

The energy and anticipation in our office is unmistakable as we gear up for Thursday’s launch of our sixth Open Enrollment Period. With our new eligibility system in place, our renewing financially assisted customers seeing an average drop of 24 percent in their net premium and all seven of our health insurance company partners returning for 2019, we have reason to be optimistic.

We will be making some final pre-Open Enrollment updates to our system during a 6-hour downtime from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. Monday (October 29) so we will be ready for November 1. After that, it’s all systems go.

Public Charge

We have been getting questions about the potential impact of proposed changes to federal regulations broadening the definition of who is a “public charge” when immigrants seek certain adjustments to their status. We have posted this one-page resource on our site, which includes contact information for several immigration attorneys who can advise Colorado families.

In the News

Two federal proposals were prominent in health insurance industry news this week. One is a proposal to allow employers to use Health Reimbursement Arrangements to assist their workers buying individual health insurance and (for employers of 50 or more) meet the requirement to provide health insurance. Healthcare Finance had this explanation.

The second was CMS guidance giving states more latitude in deciding what kind of health plans can be offered through marketplaces and be eligible for Advance Premium Tax Credit support in plan year 2020 through a 1332 waiver, as reported by Kaiser Health News.

It’s a little early to predict how these measures play out in Colorado but they bear watching.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We were glad to meet with so many of our partners from around the state this week as Brokers, Assisters and others gathered for the annual Building Better Health Conference, many of them having braved an early storm to get to the conference.

It gave us an opportunity  to talk about our new eligibility system, even as it went live on Monday for 2018 special enrollment period applications. We’re asking all our enrollment experts to not begin applications for 2019 enrollments until Open Enrollment begins on November 1. These weeks give us a chance to identify improvements we can make ahead of Open Enrollment.

Meeting face to face with so many of you from the four corners of our state gives us a chance to continue to better understand the challenges you face in your work and to express our gratitude for your partnership in achieving our mission to increase access, affordability and choice for Coloradans buying health insurance.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

Our teams have been traveling the state to take questions on the eligibility system we are putting in place for the November 1 start of open enrollment.

It’s  good feedback and we have used your questions to update our FAQ. Hope you find it helpful as we all prepare for the big day.

Connect for Health Colorado preparations remain in high gear. Our systems will be offline through 7 am Monday while we make updates necessary to get ready to sell 2019 plans.

We are recruiting from the healthcare provider community for an open seat on our Board Advisory Group. You can find information here.  Interested candidates should submit an application to [email protected].

In the News

Hope you saw the lead story in the Sunday Denver Post. It was an examination of hospital costs and the role of construction. Click here to catch up if you did not see it.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

There is a lot of good news for our customers in the health and dental plan offering that the state Division of Insurance approved yesterday.

In a clear sign of growing stability in the individual health insurance market, all seven health insurance companies will be back, along with four dental plans, so most of our customers who are happy with their 2018 plans can keep them. Our analysis shows that customers receiving financial help will see, on average, a 24% drop in their net – after premium tax credit — premium.

Of course, we encourage all consumers to use our site to get at an estimate of their total costs rather than basing their choice solely on premium. But the premium picture is much brighter than recent years.

  • Three out of four of our customers who bought their health insurance with financial help this year will have an option for health insurance with a net premium less than $50 per month in 2019.
  • Two out of three of our customers who qualify for financial help will be able to find a bronze level plan for $0 net premium.
  • Three out of four customers not receiving financial help can reduce their premium if they move to the lowest cost plan available in their current metal tier. The savings range from 4% to 10%.

Connect for Health Colorado is the only place to get financial help to reduce health insurance premiums. On average, that reduction takes 80% off the sticker price. Yet many Coloradans don’t even check to see if they can qualify, wrongly assuming they make too much money.

We will be looking for your help making sure they check beginning in 27 days, when our sixth Open Enrollment Period begins on November 1.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

DENVER – With rate increases lower than the state has seen in years, Connect for Health Colorado® customers who qualify for financial help are looking at an average decrease in their net (after tax credit) premium of 24% next year.

The Colorado Division of Insurance today issued final approval for individual health insurance plans that will increase by an average of 5.6% in 2019. The relatively small increase in monthly premiums and the return of all seven health insurance companies to the Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance Marketplace, are signs of a stabilizing market for Coloradans who buy their own health insurance coverage.

“I am happy that so many of our customers will be seeing premium decreases,” said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson. “But I remind everyone that it is still important to look at all your options. Things change and the best value for your family in 2019 could be different than what it was in 2018. We have tools to evaluate the whole cost of coverage and compare offerings side-by-side.  I urge everyone to use them when they renew or shop for new coverage in 2019.”

Analysis shows that three out of four of Coloradans who bought their health insurance with financial help through the Marketplace this year will have an option for health insurance with a net premium (after financial help) less than $50 per month in 2019. Two out of three of the more than 100,000 Connect for Health Colorado customers who qualify for financial help will be able to find a bronze level plan for $0 net premium. Bronze level plans are the lowest premium tier but come with higher deductibles and other out of pocket costs than silver and gold level plans.

“The news is just as good for new customers coming to Connect for Health Colorado for 2019,” Patterson said. “Those who qualify for financial help will, on average, see their premiums reduced by 80%.”

About Connect for Health Colorado

Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established by the Colorado General Assembly in 2011 to create a health insurance Marketplace.  Since 2013, we’ve been helping individuals, families and small employers compare plans, apply for financial help and buy health insurance. As Colorado’s official health insurance marketplace, we are the only place to apply for financial help to lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access expert, in-person help from a statewide network of certified Brokers and community-based Assisters. For more information:  ConnectforHealthCO.com

We know there is concern about a proposed rule change that would make it harder for immigrants to obtain visas or green cards if they have used or might use certain types of public assistance. We are reviewing the proposal and intend to make a formal comment.

The proposal would broaden the definition of a “public charge.” A public charge is an applicant considered not economically self-sufficient and a potential burden on the government.

The released rule differs from a draft that was leaked earlier by not including Advanced Premium Tax Credit among the assistance programs that could negatively impact immigration status. However, the proposal would add Medicaid, food stamps and housing subsidies to the list and we recognize the challenge the discussion is already bringing to our work and the work of many of our partners.

We will be discussing the proposed changes at our Oct. 8 board meeting. In the meantime, we have put together this memo for our board. Kaiser Health News has provided this high-level information.

As we get a better understanding, we will provide resources for our Brokers, our Community Based Assistance network, county eligibility workers and other partner organizations.

In the News

It’s becoming a trend among western states. Nevada was first and now New Mexico is moving to become a full state-based health insurance marketplace, like Colorado. Until now, the two states have operated on federal technology, but they have concluded that they can save money and achieve better flexibility operating on their own. Inside Health Policy had the story this week.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia operate fully state-based marketplaces, 11 states operate in various level of federal partnership, and the rest rely on entirely on the federal marketplace.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado

We have been sharing a “sneak peek” at some of the key changes to our new eligibility system, even as we prepare to roll it out in October.

We have had a lot of great feedback from Assisters and Brokers along the way and in recent webinars. We have developed a 10-minute recorded presentation for anyone unable to attend (or wanting to review).

These were only the start. We are planning more presentations and trainings on the new system in coming weeks as we complete development.

Building Better Health Registration Open

Hope we will be seeing you at Building Better Health on October 15 and 16. This is always a great in-person training and networking opportunity for the people from all over the state who help Coloradans enroll in health coverage.

Building Better Health is hosted by Covering Kids and Families. We have been working on the planning committee with representatives of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, the state Division of Insurance, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, and PEAK Outreach. The conference is funded by the Colorado Health Foundation.

Registration is free. The deadline to register is Friday, October 5. Learn more about Building Better Health.

Take care,

Kevin Patterson, MURP, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
Connect for Health Colorado