To Our Valued Stakeholders

With all the debate on the future of healthcare in this country, there are a few things I would like to make clear about the situation in Colorado:

  • On November 1, Connect for Health Colorado will be open for business with 2018 health plans.
  • Coloradans who are eligible for financial help through Advance Premium Tax Credits and/or Cost Sharing Reduction will have the same level of help available to them with their 2018 coverage. In fact, net premiums – what the individual pays after the tax credit – will drop an average of 20 percent.
  • We have loaded those plans into our system and we are making the final quality assurance checks on our shopping site as you read this message.

In the News

I think everyone is aware of legislation that would restore the Cost Share Reduction reimbursements to health insurance companies. The bill has several provisions that could stabilize the individual health insurance market. The fate of that measure is very much in question, as this Politico article makes clear.

Gov. Hickenlooper and nine other governors from both parties sent a letter to congressional leadership supporting restoration of Cost Share Reduction payments to health insurance companies and stabilizing the individual market.

As the bill is currently written, it contains a provision for health insurance companies to pay rebates if their Cost Share Reduction reimbursements are restored for next year, even as they charge premiums that were raised on the belief the reimbursements would not come. The bill is in the earliest stages of the legislative process and we have all been reminded of the uncertainty of that process this year.

This uncertainty will be with us for a while but my message to Coloradans buying their own coverage remains the same as in previous years: take the time to check the options available to you, check to see what financial assistance might be available to you and choose the health plan that best meets your needs and the needs of your family.

Take care,

Kevin

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oct 13, 2017

Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

DENVER —The day after the White House announced that it would end payments to health insurance companies to cover Cost Share Reductions, Connect for Health Colorado® CEO Kevin Patterson said the state’s health insurance Marketplace is ready to support continued enrollments and financial help to qualifying Colorado residents.

“While this news brings a disruption to the individual health insurance market on the eve of Open Enrollment, I want everyone to understand that Connect for Health Colorado remains ready to assist Coloradans who buy their own insurance.,” Patterson said. “With the rate increases that we see because of this decision, the assistance available to folks who buy coverage through us goes up. Many of our customers will see their net monthly premium cost go down next year by 20 percent, on average, below what they paid this year.”

“We have been working with the state Division of Insurance in preparing for this contingency. We are moving forward with our stakeholders toward the planned November 1, 2017-January 12, 2018, Open Enrollment Period.

“I want to further reassure the 45,000 Connect for Health Colorado customers whose co-pays and deductibles are reduced by the Cost Share Reduction program that they will not see their costs go up. The brunt of the burden of Thursday’s action is borne by our health insurance company partners.”

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.  It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and is the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community-based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Our partners at state Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) put out an important update this week on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Federal funding expired on Saturday (September 30). HCPF estimates Colorado has enough money on hand to keep the program operating through January 31, 2018.

It’s important that the 75,000 children and nearly 800 pregnant mothers covered under the program in our state continue using benefits through January but it’s time for them to start planning for potential changes in January. For many, the best option will be obtaining subsidized coverage through Connect for Health Colorado. We continue to prepare for that possibility with HCPF but recipients should sign up for updates through their PEAK accounts and we can all follow developments on the Future of Child Health Plan Plus web site.

In Other News

Congress can act at any time on reauthorizing the CHIP program, which has received bipartisan support for decades. But it looks a little different this year. The New York Times has reported that a measure to reauthorize the program ran into opposition in the House Energy and Commerce Committee added provisions affecting Medicare and Medicaid.

The partisan dispute leaves it difficult to say when to expect the question to be resolved. We continue to prepare to serve that population until it is.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

It was good to meet with many of you at the Building Better Health conference Monday and Tuesday. We’re always grateful for the chance to meet folks from all around the state who do so much toward our shared mission to expand coverage.

We thank the Colorado Health Foundation for its continuing support of an event that is critical in preparing for Open Enrollment and salute the work that Covering Kids and Family did in organizing the gathering that brought so many valuable resources together.

It seemed appropriate that this year’s conference came close on the heels of the release of the Colorado Health Access Survey, which documents the state’s historic gains in coverage – more than 5 million Coloradans now protected by health insurance. That’s a milestone to be proud of.

In Other News

A few news outlets are reporting today that backers of the bipartisan market stabilization effort in the U.S. Senate are nearing agreement. According to this Politico report, the committee could have a proposal to bring forward as early as next week.

The news comes days after party leaders in the Senate decided they did not have sufficient support for the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill to put it up for a vote.

Authorization for funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHP+ in Colorado, runs out tomorrow (September 30) but Colorado and most other states have some funds available to continue the program in the short term. The good news is that a hearing on re-authorizing is planned on Wednesday in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, according to this account in The Hill.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Our state got some good news this week with the release of the 2017 Colorado Health Access Survey. The topline finding that the gains we have made in expanding coverage since 2013 are holding, even improving modestly, was encouraging. More than 5 million Coloradans can now be counted among those with the health and financial security that comes with coverage, nearly 94 percent of the state’s population.

Personal bankruptcies tied to healthcare debt in Colorado have plummeted 60 percent since 2013, down to 40,000 a year, and 87 percent of the state’s residents rate their health as good or excellent. Among Connect for Health Colorado customers the number is even better — 94 percent.

We know that there is more work to be done. Coverage gains are less robust in the rural reaches of the state and the cost of care and coverage remains uncontained. These and other findings in the biennial report  support the direction our board took in adopting our strategic plan in July.

In Other News

State-based marketplaces, including Connect for Health Colorado, provided input to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee as it worked to find bipartisan solutions to support the individual health insurance market. Unfortunately, that effort has been overshadowed by another effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the HELP committee work is not expected to result in a bill.

The repeal bill, which the Senate is expected to take up early next week, has been criticized by governors from both political parties, including our own. Gov. Hickenlooper estimated in a Colorado Public Radio interview that the state would lose $1.5 billion a year if the Graham-Cassidy bill were to become law.

The Commonwealth Fund provided a succinct analysis of the measure and Kaiser Health News assembled a collection of news reports that you may find helpful.

I was in Washington this week and I had the opportunity to meet with members of the Colorado delegation or their staffers. I remain convinced that healthcare solutions lie in bipartisan agreement.

Take care,

Kevin

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

On September 19, 2017, the Colorado Health Institute reported in its biannual Colorado Health Access Survey that Colorado continues to maintain the high level of health insurance coverage gained since adoption of the Affordable Care Act.

Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson issued the following statement:

“It is extraordinarily good news that Colorado continues to increase to historically high levels the number of residents who enjoy the health benefits and financial security that come through health insurance. Colorado set out to find a Colorado solution to expanding health care coverage well before the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land. Our state remains a leader in expanding health coverage with nearly 94 percent of our population covered.

“We know that much works remains to be done and this valuable research confirms the direction our board of directors set in our recently adopted strategic plan. It is particularly encouraging to me that a high percentage of Connect for Health Colorado customers say they are in good or excellent health, 7 percentage points higher than reported by the state’s population as a whole.”

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

 

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.  It opened for business on Oct. 1, 2013, for individuals, families and small employers to compare and buy health insurance and is the only place to apply for financial assistance in the form of tax credits to help lower the monthly cost of premiums. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or online chat from Customer Service Center representatives; and access free, in-person assistance from a statewide network of certified Brokers, community-based Health Coverage Guides or Application Counselors. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

I was able to participate in a presentation on the importance of marketing and outreach in strengthening state Marketplaces, alongside the executive director for Covered California at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, this week.

Covered California’s research examined the role of marketing in attracting a healthy risk pool which helps contain rate increases by keeping risk scores low. California’s 2016 risk score was nearly as low as Colorado’s, according to this Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) report. Colorado had the nation’s lowest score, as we reported in July.

In Other News

It was good to see agreement on reauthorizing funding for the critical Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHP+ in Colorado, this week. But time is short for passing the actual legislation, as this Vox article makes clear.

Nearly 70,000 children and more than 700 pregnant women are covered by CHP+ in Colorado. The department Health Care Policy and Financing is providing updates here.

We get questions about Special Enrollment Periods and documenting the Life Change Events that trigger them. Special Enrollment Period documentation requests are addressed by insurance companies directly, and do not involve the Marketplace, but we have posted some guidance to the process for your reference. You will find it linked from our Life Change Events page.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We have a long way to go and a few short weeks to get there but the two days of hearings before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee this week featured members of both parties sharing ideas on bolstering the individual health insurance market. In fact, support for Congress continuing Cost Share Reductions came from members of both parties.

Reinsurance, which would give health insurance companies a backstop for covering their most expensive members, is also getting support, according to the Washington Post. This week’s hearings kindled hope of bipartisan action on broader policy initiatives, according to Morning Consult.

In Other News

The Division of Insurance (DOI) approved individual and small group rates for 2018 on Wednesday. The rates in the individual market increased 27 percent on average and 7 percent for the small group market. Both represent reductions from requested rates, according to the DOI announcement.

Supporters of the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) in Colorado, got some encouraging words Thursday in a Senate Finance Committee hearing, according to The Hill. But time is short. Authorization for CHP+ runs out in just three weeks without action.

Colorado Health Care Policy and Financing, who administers CHP+, is providing updates here.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We’re still more than a month away from seeing final rates and plans for next year but the Kaiser Family Foundation this week released its annual review of proposed rates for the second lowest-cost silver plan in 21 major cities. Denver’s 12 percent increase for a 40-year-old non-smoker – to $352 month – was among the lowest. If that 40-year-old individual has an annual income of $30,000, his or her net premium would drop 3 percent –  to $201 a month.

It’s a good illustration of the impact the tax credit can have for families and individuals when rates continue to rise. We have seen the net premium for many of our customers go down year to year. It does not address the disproportionately higher rates in our rural communities and the impact of rate increases on those whose income is above eligibility levels, where we know we have work to do.

This year’s comparison comes at a time when the level of uncertainty hanging over the marketplace is higher than ever. Again, the Kaiser Family Foundation is helpful with this brief on the current outlook for state marketplaces.

In Recent News

I was happy for the opportunity Thursday to offer my perspective in a Colorado Public Radio interview on the stability of our Marketplace and how tax credits can cushion our customers from rate increases.

Liberals and conservatives getting together to repair the Affordable Care Act? Yes, it is happening. Healthcare experts from across the political spectrum have developed a plan with something for both sides.

Congress is in recess but Vox reports that backers plan to push for their ideas in September.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

The Division of Insurance today released the preliminary rate filings for 2018, with carriers seeking an average increase of 27% in the individual market and 7% in small group market. While we had hoped for a lower rate of increase, it’s important to remember that Advance Premium Tax Credit assistance will rise with the premiums and many of our customers have seen their net premiums decline as rates increased in recent years.

We also know from our own survey that many Coloradans who are eligible for assistance assume that they are not. We urge anyone buying their own health insurance to use the tools on our site to obtain an estimate of the financial assistance that may be available to them.

Even as uncertainty surrounds the national health policy debate, a number of reports are pointing to stabilization in the individual market, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Risk Adjustment report and this brief from Kaiser Health News on market performance to date in 2017.

An appendix to the CMS report listed risk scores in the individual market in all the states, where we found the news that Colorado’s score was the lowest (best) in the nation in 2016. The risk score is a calculation based on demographics and health status of enrollees.

In Recent News

You no doubt saw the news that Senate Republicans introduced a new healthcare bill yesterday. A vote could come as early as next week. America’s Health Insurance Plans was critical in this brief and industry leaders are outspoken in this Washington Post report. Politico published an early analysis of the new bill this morning, as did The Commonwealth Fund.

Take care,

Kevin

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