To Our Valued Stakeholders,

The Division of Insurance (DOI) has released encouraging news in the form of 5.94% average increase in the proposed rates for individual health insurance for 2019. The DOI notes in a press release that this is the smallest increase in a number of years and includes a breakdown by metal tier level.

We have said it before, but it is truer this year than ever. Individuals need to look at the total cost of their coverage – not just premium – and check for eligibility for Premium Tax Credit help before choosing their coverage.

We also want you to know that we have added a calendar of planned presentations about our new eligibility system to our technology page.

Risk Adjustment

Yesterday we joined with nine other state-based marketplaces in a letter to Health and Human Services executives emphasizing the critical importance of the risk adjustment program in restraining rate increases for our customers. The department announced suspension of the program one week ago based on questions arising from a February ruling in U.S. District Court in New Mexico.

Federal authorities clarified that the risk adjustment program in 2019 and beyond will continue, deep (page 3) in this July 12 memo.

In the News

We are reminded again this week of the benefit of operating our own state-based marketplace when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced another cut to assisters in states served by the federal marketplace. The New York Times reports the $10 million budget represents an 80 percent cut in two years.

Take care,

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We had the opportunity Monday to talk with our policy committee about the results of our most recent surveys. That included surveys of new and returning customers, lapsed customers and Colorado residents selected at random.

The responses show progress in key areas:

  • Fewer customers reporting technical problems
  • More customers giving positive marks to our Customer Service Center
  • An 18-point jump in the percentage of customers likely to recommend Connect for Health Colorado

In the News

There was encouraging news in a Kaiser Family Foundation report this week on the positive financial performance of health insurance companies in the individual market. A good first quarter this year for many follows positive results in 2017, more indication that markets are stabilizing, even as the policy debate continues.

Last Friday I participated with three other state-based marketplace directors on a panel at the national America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) 2018 Institute & Expo, where we talked about the importance of outreach strategies. Inside Health Policy covered it here.

Take care,

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We are always open to engaging with community partners throughout Colorado in a variety of ways. Part of achieving our mission to increase access, affordability and choice for individuals, families and small businesses buying health insurance is raising awareness about the help we can provide.

One of the most effective ways to do that is participating as a sponsor to some of the many events we are invited to join. We are hoping our partners, especially those outside of the metro Denver area, can help us identify opportunities that might work especially well in their communities.

We are always happy to learn of opportunities so we have added a page to our site to make it easy for anyone to let us know.

Please take a look and share it with anyone who may be interested.

In the News

You will be hearing about “silver loading” in Colorado health insurance premiums in the coming months leading up to our next Open Enrollment period. It can be a little confusing, but The Denver Post provided an explanation of the approach and how it can benefit consumers by reducing premiums.

Take care,

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Members of our legislative oversight committee commended our progress when we met on Monday to talk about improvements to our customer service, our 2018-2019 budget and the challenges that come with assisting households with a mix of people enrolled in Connect for Health Colorado financial assistance and Medicaid or CHP+.

Chief among the customer service improvement is a new eligibility system that will simplify the application process in our next Open Enrollment with a more customer-centered design. Improvements to our Quick Cost and Plan Finder tool and to call handling in our Customer Service Center are also included in the $39 million spending plan that takes effect July 1.

As of May 30, there were 1,157 Colorado households with members in both Connect for Health Colorado and Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid) programs. We assist those households through our Medical Assistance site.

You can review the meeting materials here.

In the News

On Thursday the Trump administration announced in a court filing that it would not defend challenges to the Affordable Care Act brought by 20 states. The action threatens protections for people with pre-existing conditions. While this introduces new uncertainty to the healthcare policy landscape, it will likely be some months or years before the ultimate impact is known. The Washington Post provides perspective here.

Take care,

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We will not be taking any time off this summer on development of our new eligibility system. Our work with stakeholders and technology partners to have a streamlined application in place for the next Open Enrollment Period continues full speed ahead.

We added a timeline this week to the web page on our site devoted to explaining this work and engaging our many stakeholders.

Advisory Group Opportunity

We are recruiting from the healthcare provider community for two open seats on our Board Advisory Group. Interested candidates should submit an application to [email protected].  More information can be found here.

Take care,

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

This is when one or more family members are approved for a Qualified Health Plan, Premium Tax Credits, and/or Cost-Sharing Reductions and other members of the same household are approved for Health First Colorado or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).

Mixed eligibility households should report all changes and do their annual redetermination through Program Eligibility and Application Kit (PEAK), the online application for Health First Colorado and other state assistance programs. Connect for Health Colorado’s Medical Assistance (MA) Site will provide support for case maintenance for mixed eligibility households.

Household members on different programs may have different renewal and certification timelines.  Check your PEAK account for Health First Colorado/CHP+ redetermination date and your Connect for Health account for information specific to your Marketplace plan.

Related FAQs:
Am I eligible for subsidies (financial help) to help pay for health insurance?
What is Health First Colorado (Colorado’s Medicaid Program)?
What is an Advance Premium Tax Credit?
What is a cost-sharing reduction?

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We are making great progress in developing our new eligibility system. While there is a lot of work ahead, we know it will bring major improvements to the way Coloradans apply for financial help (Advance Premium Tax Credits and Cost-Sharing Reductions) to lower their health insurance costs.

The new system, first discussed in this letter in February, is generating a lot of anticipation among stakeholders. We have added a new page to our web site to answer questions, report progress and to take your comments and questions.

As a reminder, the new system will be funded, developed and maintained entirely by Connect for Health Colorado and ready for the next Open Enrollment Period. We are undertaking this work to:

  • Streamline the customer experience
  • Continue to meet federal compliance obligations
  • Control system enhancements and to add speed and flexibility to troubleshooting

I hope you find this new resource helpful and that you will share the link with anyone who might have a question or input.

Take care,

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

This year’s Legislature adjourned Wednesday after passing a couple of measures that will affect our customers and not passing three measures that we have been following aimed at easing the burden of high premiums.

What passed:

SB 136 will allow brokers to charge a fee when advising customers to buy a health plan if the broker does not receive a commission on the plan. They cannot charge a fee for enrolling people in Health First Colorado or CHP+ and they are required to notify customers in advance. The state Division of Insurance is working on related rules.

SB 132 calls for the insurance commissioner to make an actuarial analysis to determine whether expanding eligibility for catastrophic to Coloradans age 30 and above (without a hardship exemption) would reduce Advance Premium Tax Credits (APTC) for Coloradans or increase average individual health insurance premiums.

If the analysis finds such a change would do neither, the insurance commissioner would be required to seek a five-year waiver to allow the sale of catastrophic plans to all Coloradans. Such plans would remain ineligible for APTC support and would be sold through Connect for Health Colorado.

What did not pass:

HB 1205 would have provided financial assistance to Coloradans whose income is between 400% and 500% of federal poverty level and spend more than 20 percent of their household income on health insurance premiums.

HB 1392 would have created a reinsurance program to help health insurance companies with their highest cost members, allowing them to better contain increases in premium.

HB 1384 would have called for the state department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the state Division of Insurance to study three different healthcare coverage options, a Health First Colorado buy-in, a public-private partnership and a community- or regionally-based healthcare alternative.

In the News

Forbes reported more evidence of state Marketplace stabilization this week, as health insurance companies see improving profits in the individual market. Interestingly, the health insurance companies featured in the article are showing little interest in offering short-term plans.

Take care,

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Our board Executive Committee has voted to support a bill introduced this week in the state Legislature aimed at lowering premiums for buyers in the individual health insurance market through creation of a reinsurance program. The program envisioned in HB 1392 would assist health insurance companies with high cost claims to keep premium increases down.

Containing premium costs through a reinsurance program is of particular benefit to buyers who do not qualify for tax credit help and is aligned with Connect for Health Colorado’s mission to “increase access, affordability and choice” to Coloradans buying health insurance.

Learn more about the legislation.

I mentioned last week that a new law will allow brokers to charge a fee for assisting a customer in certain circumstances.

The state Division of Insurance will develop rules on implementing the law. We have posted some information on our site, and you can read the text of the bill.

In the News

Wisconsin’s governor this week submitted a 1332 waiver request to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a reinsurance program, similar to the waiver request that is called for in HB 1392. Wisconsin officials estimate the program could reduce premiums 5 percent, according to an article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Take care,

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Yesterday the governor signed into law a bill that will allow brokers to charge a fee when assisting a customer buying a health plan that does not include a broker commission.

Brokers have played an important role in assisting our customers throughout our history and we expect that to continue. We also continue to work to inform our customers on the full cost of their coverage and will incorporate this change in future communications.

The Division of Insurance will develop rules on implementing the law. You can read more on the legislation, including the text of the bill.

In the News

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week released its Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2019. We are reviewing the 523-page document, which is broad in scope.

CMS released an accompanying fact sheet along with the full text.

The Washington Post also summarized some of the highlights of the rules in its coverage.

We will keep you informed of any impact this guidance will have on our customers or our operations.

Take care,

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