Connect for Health Colorado® CEO Kevin Patterson Statement on Progress Documented in 2017 Colorado Health Access Survey  

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 proud to be a part of Colorado’s continuing tradition of finding bipartisan solutions to providing health insurance to all our residents. Today, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper with Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich and other governors of both political parties released a blueprint for stabilizing the individual health insurance market.

It puts forward both immediate and long term solutions. Their suggestions call on members of Congress to address Cost Share Reduction payments at least through 2019, reinsurance, the family glitch and other issues that have arisen under the Affordable Care Act. The proposals also would open the door for states to find solutions particular to their own situations.

The governors’ positions are very much in line with a letter we joined other state-based marketplaces in signing. The National Academy of State Health Policy summed it up in a press release this week. All this is in advance of a hearing on Wednesday and Thursday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

That our Democratic governor joined a Republican governor to develop a path forward has received much media attention but we see it as a continuation of a tradition in Colorado. After all, Connect for Health was born of an idea that came from a commission formed by a Republican governor and put it into operation under a Democratic governor.

In Other News 

Among the pressing business that Congress returns to next week is reauthorization of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which in Colorado is known as Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+). Funding is now authorized only through September. Although the program has received support from members of both political parties in the past, we are doing contingency planning for the possibility the program is not reauthorized so that we could assist with coverage for the 75,000 children and pregnant women who are now covered by CHP+.

The state department of Health Care Policy and Financing, who administers CHP+, has developed a resource for following developments in Colorado. The Colorado Health Institute has provided background on the history and the scope of the program.
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,

Confused by the healthcare debate in Washington? You are not alone. With all the activity in the last week, it’s far from clear right now in what direction we’re headed. Even as the debate shifts by the hour, a couple of points are known.

As the New York Times reported on Thursday, Senate Republicans plan a procedural vote next week on whether to open debate on a bill.

However, it’s not known whether there is enough support even to pass that preliminary question or which of the four different pieces of legislation would be on the table if it does pass. Vox.com provides summaries of the bills.

Even with the current divisions on the path forward, some still talk about finding a bipartisan approach to solving issues under the current law. The Commonwealth Fund offers this vision of how it could work.

In Recent News

Health insurance companies’ filings for 2018 individual and small group plans became public a week ago, prompting discussion of increases which average 27% in the initial filings for individual plans (7% for small group) in Colorado. This explanation of the drivers of rate increases by the American Academy of Actuaries provides a helpful perspective on the current requests.

I will be taking a couple of weeks off from these updates, resuming Aug. 11.

Until then, take care and enjoy your summer,

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

July 14, 2017

DENVER – Connect for Health Colorado® is opening the application period for its Certified Application Counselor (CAC) Program. The program designates organizations throughout the state to provide application assistance to customers seeking financial assistance for health coverage through the state health insurance Marketplace.

The CAC Program is an initiative that engages partner organizations to support Connect for Health Colorado’s efforts to provide Coloradans access to affordable health coverage. It is an opportunity for healthcare providers and organizations who already perform application assistance for health coverage programs to become Certified Application Counselor Designated Organizations. This program is implemented in compliance with federal rules and applicants must meet the Connect for Health Colorado criteria, including privacy and security standards. Connect for Health Colorado does not provide funding to Designated Organizations for performing this customer assistance.

Selected organizations will have staff and/or volunteers to perform the customer assistance duties of Certified Application Counselors (CAC’s). Applicants are required to:

  • Submit a Designated Organization application
  • Sign the Certified Application Counselor Program Designated Organization Agreement
  • Ensure that staff and/or volunteers who will be working as CACs complete mandatory training and become certified through Connect for Health Colorado

Deadline:  Applications can be submitted between August 1-August 31 for participation in the program Oct. 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018.

Application Documents: Can be found on the Connect for Health Colorado Certified Application Counselor Program webpage.

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.

July 11, 2017
Contact: Luke Clarke 720-496-2545

Colorado’s ‘risk score’ in 2016 is the country’s lowest, with expected healthcare costs 25 percent below the national average, countering claims of collapse in the individual market

DENVER — A recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides national data that detail the stable health mix among individuals and families who buy their own health insurance and it scores Colorado ahead of all other states.

The report, “Summary Report on Transitional Reinsurance Payments and Permanent Risk Adjustment Transfers for the 2016 Benefit Year,” found that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “functioned smoothly” in 2016 as the market for families and individuals buying their own health coverage continued to grow.

“This report provides convincing evidence that the individual markets are stable and are not collapsing,” said Kevin Patterson, executive director of Connect for Health Colorado®. “The federal data demonstrate that individual markets are attracting a balanced risk mix, not just in Colorado but across the country. This is important to keep in mind as Congress considers national healthcare policy.”

The report calculates an “average risk score” for states. Colorado’s score of 1.26 compares to the national average risk score of 1.69. That means the overall healthcare costs for Coloradans buying their own insurance — including those who buy through Connect for Health Colorado and those who buy directly from health insurance companies — are expected to be 25 percent lower than the national average, based on age, sex and health. A lower risk score indicates a healthier mix of people buying insurance.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services compiles the data as part of federal programs to protect health insurers whose members have higher than average cost for their care.

Lower risk scores are common in states who operate their own marketplace, as Colorado does. Those states averaged a score of 1.52 in 2016. The scores did not change dramatically in 2016 from 2015, another indication of stability in the individual market.

However, Colorado’s 2016 score was improved from 1.37 in 2015. The scores for all states can be found here for 2015 and here for 2016.

To Our Valued Stakeholders,

We are continuing to watch closely the debate in the Senate over the Republican-backed alternative to the Affordable Care Act. The decision not to put the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) up for a vote this week, as earlier promised, does not mean the measure is dead. A revised version of the bill is expected to go to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for scoring while Congress is on its July 4 recess.

The CBO score released Monday said the measure would cause 22 million people to lose health insurance coverage, setting off vocal protests and stalling the bill’s progress. The biggest losses in coverage would be in Medicaid recipients but the bill would also bring an increase in net premiums to many Marketplace customers, demonstrated at the county level in this interactive map produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In Recent News

For our customers, proposed changes to financial assistance would hit hardest in rural counties, according to a recent report on Colorado by the National Academy for State Health Policy, which was reported in The Denver Post.

A group of 40 economists —six of whom are Nobel prize winners —publicly opposed the Senate bill in a letter to leadership urging legislation that would work to improve the care delivery system and make improvements to the existing law, rather than repeal it. The letter was first reported by Vox.com.

It’s been a long week for all of us. I hope you all can find time to enjoy your family and friends over the July 4 holiday.

Take care,

Kevin

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