To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Wednesday’s release of the Congressional Budget Office score of American Health Care Act reheated the healthcare debate with a projection that 23 million people would lose coverage in 10 years if the measure were to pass in its current form.

As troubling as these projections are, it’s worth remembering the bill is given little chance of passing in the Senate, where work is expected to start soon on new legislation.

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) weighed in with a nine-page letter to the Senate this week. The letter outlines a number of areas where federal policy makers could stabilize the individual health insurance market in the short term and in the long term.

In Recent News

The most pressing market stabilization measure AHIP recommended is continued funding of Cost Share Reduction (CSR) payments. For those who qualify, CSR payments help pay out of pocket expenses. As a recent Commonwealth Fund brief points out, they can make or break the bottom line for health insurance companies.

The effect the potential loss of CSR payments has on health insurance premiums was made clear Thursday in North Carolina, where Blue Cross and Blue Shield filed for an average 22.9 percent rate increase in 2018, saying it would be only 8.8 percent if Congress funded CSRs, according to an article in the News & Observer of Raleigh.

Take care and enjoy your holiday weekend,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

The Commonwealth Fund looked at enrollment in health insurance marketplaces in the recently concluded fourth Open Enrollment Period. Four states — Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington — achieved double-digit growth in plan selections, while growth slowed in other states and even declined in some.

The report said that nine of the 17 states who control some or all of their marketplace functions saw gains. We were, of course, pleased to be listed among the top gainers.

Legislative Update

The Colorado General Assembly wrapped up business for the year on Wednesday without acting on the Senate bill that would have repealed Connect for Health Colorado. The measure, which brought daylong testimony in support of our operations during a February committee hearing, did not advance out of the state Senate. The bill’s sponsor told the Denver Business Journal that he plans to continue to work on the measure.

In Recent News

National Public Radio interviewed Gov. Hickenlooper on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed last week by the House of Representatives. The governor said it would impact state spending by more than $1.5 billion without improving coverage.

Voters favor the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over the AHCA by a wide margin, according to a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll. For the ACA, 50% of voters approve and 42% disapprove, while the AHCA got 38% approval and 44% disapproval.

We have added a new resource to our website outlining our Priorities for Health Reform. You will find it on our Healthcare Reform Policy page with other documents relevant to the healthcare policy debate.

I’ll be taking a week off these updates next week but we will continue to keep you informed as we move forward.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Thursday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives is dominating news coverage as the debate at the federal level moves to the U.S. Senate.  The New York Times provided analysis of the current measure, as did the Health Affairs Blog.

I think it’s important to remember this vote is one step in a long process and the legislation is expected to change in the Senate. Health insurance industry reaction, from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), focused on opportunities to improve the bill in that chamber. Already, Republican senators are talking of writing their own bill, according to the Washington Post. Any changes in the Senate would have to go back to the House so we are a long way from seeing the final direction of this legislation.

We continue to work with our representatives at the state and federal level to protect the health coverage of all Coloradans and find solutions to the challenge of increasing access, affordability and choice.

Board Update

We will update our board of directors on our strategic plan when they meet Monday. We will also review with the board budget scenarios for next year.

In Recent News

Nearly lost in all of the attention focused on the debate around the House bill was encouraging news reported by Consumer Reports on the positive impact the Affordable Care Act has had on personal bankruptcies. The number was cut in half after the law took effect, demonstrating the impact medical expenses have on personal budgets. Colorado saw a similar reduction, according to the 2015 Colorado Health Access Survey (page 22).

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We are at the point on the calendar when we anticipate our health insurance company partners filing their plan offerings and rates for the coming year. The Division of Insurance this week announced the deadlines for filing and the timetable for review and approval.

The timetable is a little different from previous years, because of the uncertainty the current policy debate has built up around the individual market. The filings are due June 19. They will be made public July 14 and finalization will come in late summer or early fall.

Legislative Update

House Bill 17-1235, which is the measure that would provide financial assistance to some Coloradans with income falling between 400% and 500% of the federal poverty level, was killed in a committee vote on Monday. The outcome was disappointing and it means the preparation work that we have accomplished will be put on the shelf for now. But we will continue to work with rural legislators, county commissioners, business owners, other state and county officials on how Connect for Health Colorado can help solve the thorny problem of the high costs of health insurance coverage in the rural regions of our state.

In Recent News

I hope that you saw the Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week that found significant support for keeping the Affordable Care Act and making it work as well as possible.

Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments provide crucial help lowering out-of-pocket costs for folks who qualify but they are also vital to health insurance companies in the individual market. AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), an industry advocacy group, issued a statement yesterday from medical professionals, health insurers and other business leaders urging the continuation of CSRs.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

I think all of us recognize a higher than usual level of uncertainty around the individual health insurance market at a time when health insurance companies should be finalizing their rates and plans for the coming year. Yesterday, Colorado’s Insurance Commissioner, Marguerite Salazar pointed that out in a letter to the nine members of the state’s congressional delegation.

The announcement prompted some coverage in The Denver Post and the Denver Business Journal.

Legislative Update

House Bill 17-1235, which is the measure that would provide financial assistance to some Coloradans with income falling between 400% and 500% of the federal poverty level, was passed out of the State House on Monday and was assigned to the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee. A hearing is scheduled this coming Monday.

In Recent News

A one-page summary of proposed amendments to the American Health Care Act became public yesterday and fanned coverage of renewed efforts by Republicans in Congress. According to a Health Affairs article, the package could be considered as early as next Thursday. This piece in Politico assesses the politics around the renewed conversation.

Two reports this week highlighted Colorado’s gains in signing up the “eligible but not enrolled” population. According to this Kaiser Family Foundation chart, Colorado saw the third highest rate in the country of increased Medicaid and CHP+ enrollments. In a fresh analysis of its 2015 data, the Colorado Health Institute noted our significant gains and those by Health First Colorado in reaching these folks.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

I want to recommend you take a moment to read our End of Open Enrollment Report, which we posted earlier this week. As the most extensive report of our results we make each year, the End of Open Enrollment Report documents the impact our work is having throughout the state.  You’ll see that households who receive financial assistance are receiving $369 a month on average to help keep their premiums affordable.

Customers made more than 178,000 plan selections through Connect for Health Colorado during the four-month period covered in the report. Growth continued to be strong in rural counties as well as large suburban counties like Adams, Douglas and Jefferson, where enrollments grew by 10 percent or more. We are grateful for the hard work of our Brokers, Health Coverage Guides, Certified Application Counselors and stakeholders that produce these results.

Legislative Update

The state House Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed HB17-1235, the measure that would provide financial assistance to some Coloradans with income falling between 400% and 500% of the federal poverty level. It’s headed next to the House floor.

This bill would give us the opportunity to help folks in areas with the state’s highest health insurance premiums and we have a team laying the groundwork, should the measure become law.

In Recent News

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday finalized its market stabilization rules. We provided our formal comment on the rules in March.

Standard & Poors put out a timely and encouraging analysis of individual health insurance markets, as our carrier partners prepare their 2018 plans and premiums. The report found reason to believe the market is stabilizing. As this New York Times article put it,  the insurers reviewed by S&P reduced their losses in 2016, will likely break even in 2017 and can expect profits in 2018.

Take care,

Kevin

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

April 10, 2017

Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545
LClarke@Connectforhealthco.com

DENVER – The average household savings on health insurance purchased through Connect for Health Colorado® this year is $369 a month, according to an analysis released today by the state health insurance marketplace, up from an average $294 a month last year.

The savings come in the form of a federal tax credit applied to monthly insurance premiums for qualifying individuals and families who enroll in health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado®.

Overall, Coloradans received $318 million in tax credits in 2016.

Today’s report includes a county-level look at average premiums and tax credits for 2017. It covers enrollments during the three-month open enrollment period (Nov. 1, 2016-Jan. 31, 2017), as well as the “special enrollment period” that extended through March 2 for many Coloradans whose 2016 coverage was not available for 2017.

Customers selected 178,415 medical and/or dental plans through Connect for Health Colorado (including 174,678 medical) in the period between Nov. 1, 2016, and  March 2, 2017, according to the detailed report published on the Connect for Health Colorado web site.

“The impact our financial assistance program has in helping Coloradans protect their health and finances is clear in this report,” said Kevin Patterson, Connect for Health Colorado CEO. “We could not achieve this success without the help of our partners – in particular our Assistance Network, our licensed Brokers and our insurance company partners who support our mission to increase access, affordability and choice in health coverage for our state.”

A network of 961 certified brokers, 110 Health Coverage Guides and 290 Certified Application Counselors worked to assist Coloradans enrolling in healthcare coverage with seven health insurance carriers through the state marketplace.

Average tax credit by county: click here.

Enrollment by county: click here.

About Connect for Health Colorado
Connect for Health Colorado is a public, non-profit entity established in law 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 apply for tax credits to help make their insurance more affordable. Customers can shop online; get help by phone or chat from expert Customer Service Center representatives; and find in-person assistance from certified brokers and agents, community based certified Health Coverage Guides or Certified Application Counselors. For more information: www.connectforhealthco.com

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We are already building the foundation to support a possible new state assistance program that would be created by pending legislation, HB17-1235. The bill would provide some financial assistance for Coloradans who live in areas with some of the steepest health insurance premiums. The measure recently made its first step toward becoming law when the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee passed it and sent it to the Appropriations Committee. We’ll be talking to our Board of Directors about our work on this project in Monday’s meeting.

Legislative Update

The state Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday passed Senate Bill 3, which calls for moving our operations to the federal exchange. The next step would be a hearing before the full state senate before the measure could move to the state House of Representatives. Each step of this process is an opportunity for us to tell our story and the opposition to the bill has brought out many accounts of Coloradans who depend on us to get coverage.

In Recent News

The lack of clarity on the future of Cost-Sharing Reduction – financial assistance with co-payments, coinsurance and deductibles for some of our customers most in need of help – has been a major concern. Congressional Republican leaders recently spoke in support of keeping the payments through this year and 2018, as reported in the New York Times.

The national conversation that followed November’s election has made many Americans more aware of the effect state marketplaces and the expansion of Medicaid have had on the country. Polls show the Affordable Care Act’s popularity is growing. A Gallup poll released Wednesday showed 55 percent of respondents approving the law, up from 42 percent in November. That’s a big move in five months and the first time a majority said they support the law.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

Along with much of the country, I have been watching the debate in the House of Representatives over the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The measure was withdrawn so what happens next is not clear. We continue to work with our representatives at the state and federal level to protect the health coverage of all Coloradans and find solutions to the challenge of increasing access, affordability and choice for all Coloradans buying health insurance.

Legislative Update

The Health, Insurance and Environment Committee in the state House of Representatives is scheduled on Thursday to take up discussion of the bill to provide financial relief to certain Colorado residents who are not eligible for any other insurance assistance program and spending more than 15 percent of their income on health insurance premiums. We look forward to the chance to administer this program, should the bill become law.

In Recent News

The claims and counter claims about the Affordable Care Act and the proposed American Health Care Act can be confusing for anyone. That’s why you might find this article published in the Harvard Business Review by two experts with the Commonwealth Fund helpful. The writers take a hard look at where each piece of legislation falls short and what they feel is needed in the health insurance market.

I’ll be taking a break next week on my Friday messages and will resume on Friday, April 7.

Take care,

Kevin

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

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

I had the opportunity last week to participate in a conference with America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national association of health insurance companies. The 2017 National Conference on the Individual and Small Group Markets brought industry executives and state health policy experts together to look at potential innovations in the individual and small group markets. My presentation summarizes our history, current state and some of the opportunity we see.

Legislative Update

Media are reporting today that the House of Representatives will vote on the American Health Care Act as early as Thursday. The Monday release of the Congressional Budget Office report scoring the bill — and the estimate that 24 million Americans would lose their health insurance coverage in 10 years — prompted a lot of discussion about potential changes to the legislation.

The Colorado Health Institute released an analysis of the current legislative proposal’s impact on Colorado, estimating that 600,000 Coloradans would lose coverage by 2030 if the proposal were to become law.

Recall that the debate in Congress prior to passing the Affordable Care Act took close to a year and it still feels early in the process. The seventh anniversary of that bill becoming law is also on Thursday.

In Recent News

You may find some valuable historical perspective in two media releases this week.

Writers with Vox.com went deep with a “lessons learned” piece that includes an interview with former President Obama.

Some of our own state’s lessons learned surfaced in a Colorado Public Radio interview with Bill Lindsay, a retired insurance executive who chaired the Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform (the “208 Commission”) and who continues to work with the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care. The idea of creating what would become Connect for Health Colorado was born with the 208 Commission.

Take care,

Kevin

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