Summer is winding down, and all eyes have been on Congress as they returned from recess this past week. Currently, several bipartisan proposals to stabilize the individual market are being discussed, including a blueprint offered by our own Gov. John Hickenlooper and his Republican counterpart from Ohio, Gov. John Kasich.
Their efforts are important to the millions of Americans who do not receive health care coverage subsidies through their employer, Medicare or Medicaid and must purchase insurance in the individual market.
A major recommendation suggests the federal government continue cost-sharing support that provides reduced deductibles and copays to lower-income residents. Their plan also would retain the “individual mandate” requiring residents to buy insurance. However, they suggest states should have greater flexibility in defining the essential health benefits currently required in the ACA.
Of particular interest to residents on the Western Slope, where in several areas there is just one insurance company offering plans in 2018, the governors would allow individuals in underserved counties to buy into insurance programs that give them the same benefits as federal workers.
A key imperative in the governors’ effort is addressing the cost of care. “The real challenge over time will be to confront the underlying cost drivers of health care spending, and reset incentives to reward better care for individuals, better health for populations, and lower costs.”
On Wednesday, Colorado’s Division of Insurance (DOI) approved the individual and small group plans that will be offered in 2018. The good news is all the health insurance companies now offering coverage through the exchange to Coloradans buying their own coverage will again be selling individual plans for 2018. However, rates are going up. According to DOI Commissioner Marguerite Salazar, “The immediate need is for our Congressional partners to take actions that stabilize the market and sweep away the uncertainty pushing up rates and making companies skittish. Along with the Governor, I implore Congress to fully fund the CSR program to provide that relief.”
Through all the uncertainty surrounding health care reform, Connect for Health Colorado continues to be the ‘go-to’ resource for Coloradans to purchase health insurance and get financial help to reduce the cost of that coverage. Our CEO Kevin Patterson recently stated, “We at Connect for Health Colorado support the bipartisan proposals that add stability to the health insurance Marketplace. We will do everything in our power to implement changes that could help our customers. We stand committed to work with the Division of Insurance to increase access, affordability and choice for individuals and small businesses buying health insurance in our state.”
While Connect for Health Colorado plays no role in the rate review process, we are here to help by being the only place Coloradans can qualify for tax credits to alleviate some of the increased cost of coverage. The next Open Enrollment Period is Nov. 1, 2017 – Jan. 12, 2018. However, to avoid a gap in coverage, customers in the individual market will need to select a plan by Dec. 15.
Linda Gann is the senior manager, Western Slope Region, for Connect for Health Colorado.