Uncertainty in Washington Leads to Greater Insurance Rate Increases

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE #2: Insurance premium rates have always gone up year-by-year, but rate increases have actually slowed under Obamacare. Check out this story from TIME magazine last October:

These increased costs for employers and employees alike may seem steep—up around 50% over the past eight years—but they could have risen far higher had the Affordable Care Act never passed. [Pols emphasis] The Kaiser study shows that average family premiums rose 20% from 2011 to 2016. That rate of increase is actually much lower than the previous five years (up 31% from 2006 to 2011) and the five years before that (up 63% from 2001 to 2006).


POLS UPDATE: Denver7’s Blair Miller reports, don’t believe the hype:

Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar says that the high hikes are a product of uncertainty for insurers in the marketplaces.

“It remains pivotal that the Trump administration stops using people’s access to health care as a bargaining chip and commits to funding the Cost-Sharing Reductions in 2018,” Salazar said. [Pols emphasis]

“These premium increases are not a surprise,” she continued. “I believe that the dubious situation at the federal level has contributed to the premium increase requests we’ve seen from the companies.”


Today the Colorado Division of Insurance released the preliminary health insurance rate filings, and the proposed rates show Colorado’s insurance market is being disrupted by politics in Washington. While Colorado scores ahead of all other states in our health care risk score, the chaos and uncertainty caused by Republicans in Washington means Coloradans will face volatility and spikes in the individual insurance market with proposed premium increases ranging from 12.1% to 41.2%. Small employers will see a little more stability experiencing some single and some double digit increases.

This wide range shows that insurers are grappling with the uncertainty created by the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress and administrative actions undermining the market. Yet again, rate increases will hit rural counties even harder, where Anthem is the only insurer offering plans in 14 counties and is requesting a rate increase of over 30%.

Proposed insurance rates are often higher than the finalized rates, so hopefully we will see the Division of Insurance closely examine the basis for these proposed increases and reduce those rates that are not justified. Nevertheless, with the ongoing chaos created by Congress and the Administration, Colorado consumers are facing painful increases in their 2018 coverage and premium prices.

The insurance market was stabilizing prior to the turmoil created by Republican leaders in Washington. Insurance companies like predictability and they haven’t gotten that.

Kaiser, with the bulk of the individual market enrollments through Connect for Health Colorado, has requested a 24.4% increase, Bright Health a 15% increase, Colorado Choice 28.9%, Rocky Mountain HMO has requested 12.1%, and Denver Health is asking for a 12.7% increase for their Elevate health insurance plans.

However, some insurers have asked for even larger increases. In addition to Anthem’s 30% requested increase, Cigna is requesting a whopping increase of 41.2%. These increases only compound the problem for Western Slope consumers who have been struggling with sky-high premiums and significant yearly increases.

The signs that the market was stabilizing should encourage Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it. If the Senate bill passes, Coloradans will see tax credits decrease, seniors charged more, and more rate increases. Insurers should be working with providers to improve quality and keep coverage affordable by addressing the underlying health care costs instead of responding to the chaos created by Congress and this Administration.

Check Your List Twice…for Health Insurance!

("Santa Klutz?" Bob Gardner's not going to like this! – promoted by Colorado Pols)

The Colorado-based Got Insurance campaign is back with holiday themed ads to encourage Coloradans to include health insurance in their holiday shopping list. The deadline on December 23rd to enroll for coverage that begins January 1st is fast approaching. Colorado has seen enrollment numbers spike in recent weeks, but there are still many uninsured Coloradans that need to get covered.

Colorado’s marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, makes it easier to do just that. Connect for Health Colorado allows Coloradans to compare plans with different levels of coverage and find plans that have your doctor in their network. And if you have questions, there’s a robust network of health coverage guides that can help you through the process and make sure you get financial assistance if you are eligible.

In the spirit of the holidays, Santa has teamed up with Coloradans to help make sure we all get covered to get the care we need, when we need it. Don’t be naughty and shift your health care costs to your friends and neighbors by going without insurance. Make your holiday shopping list and check it twice to make sure you get covered.


Got Insurance?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

We should all be able to answer "yes" to the question "Got Insurance?" That's why today we launched our new social media campaign, "Got Insurance?" with ProgressNow Colorado Education to raise awareness of the new health insurance options available for Coloradans. It's not too much to ask to get the care you need when you need it, and see your doctor without unpredictable costs. Colorado's new insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, can help Coloradans get affordable health insurance with financial assistance to reduce monthly premiums.

Modeled after the iconic Got Milk? ad campaign, Got Insurance? features everyday Coloradans with a message to the under- and uninsured that they now may be able to afford and purchase health insurance. The 'ads' link to a website that prepares health insurance shoppers to take the next step, enrolling in insurance through their marketplace. The campaign will roll out new content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest weekly, and all the campaign images are housed on the website doyougotinsurance.com. You can easily share the images from the website and join in the conversation!


Breaking up is for the best

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Breaking up with your old health insurance plan.
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

Your health insurance plan is being canceled, and that’s a good thing. A lot of Coloradans are getting notices from their insurer saying their insurance plan is being canceled. Before you freak out, it's important to realize, your specific plan may be getting canceled because it does not provide all the services or protections that are going to be required under health reform, but that really just means you will have access to new plans with better coverage and protections. Starting January 1, 2014, Obamacare requires all insurance companies to cover 10 categories of essential health benefits. 


Mythbusters: Rate Shock

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The myth of rate shock continues to be just that…a myth.
Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

On Friday, the Division of Insurance released the final rates for health insurance plans in 2014, and Coloradans will have a robust marketplace with strong competition that should combat increases in premiums going forward. Some had raised fears of increased rates, or “rate shock” in 2014, but we’re just not seeing that here in Colorado. While these are new plans with new coverages, these finalized rates confirm that Colorado consumers will have more access to affordable coverage—and financial assistance will help Coloradans get covered and see their doctor without unpredictable costs.

The new rates vary quite a bit based on a person’s age and geographic location, but all Coloradans will be able to choose from at least several insurance carriers and different levels of coverage. For example, in Fort Collins rates for silver level plans for 40-year-olds ranges from $232.91 to $500.62 dollars a month.

There are more affordable options too. Bronze level plans offer cheaper premiums in exchange for slightly less robust coverage and start at just $176.89 a month in Fort Collins. Plus, Coloradans purchasing these plans still qualify for financial assistance.

Coloradans under 30 have the option to purchase catastrophic plans to protect them from enormous medical bills. These plans are available starting at $135.57 for a 27-year-old. 

Before Obamacare, going the bare-bones routes on health insurance could still leave you very exposed to astronomical medical bills. Health insurance isn’t very helpful if you still go bankrupt is it? With new plans with better coverage, all Coloradans have access to better plans at a more affordable cost. 


Being a woman gets easier today

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

By Ashley Mayo

With all of the politics surrounding the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it’s easy to lose sight of the ways the law is fundamentally improving health care in Colorado and across America. In our state alone, 291,000 children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied coverage, 50,000 young adults have gained insurance by staying on their parents’ plans, and over 200,000 residents will receive rebate checks from insurers who failed to meet the 80/20 rule.

On Aug. 1, Obamacare brings yet another historic reform: insurance companies must cover preventive services for women without cost-sharing.

This provision is great news for both health and gender equity. Women make up just over half the population of the United States, yet they are 29 percent more likely to live in poverty than men, and their salaries are an average of 23 percent lower. These disparities are rooted in complex social problems, but the ACA’s new preventive health provisions will provide some relief for the more than 45 million American women, including 20 million with private insurance and 25 million with Medicaid, who will soon gain access to copay-free preventive care.

The seven newly covered services span a wide range of health issues. Effective Aug. 1, women will have access to the following services without co-pays:

  • Well-woman visits: At these visits, women receive all necessary preventive services, like Pap smears and breast exams, so that health issues can be prevented or identified and treated in early stages. They also get the chance to actually talk with their providers, helping them make informed and empowered decisions about their own health. Well-woman visits save lives; the introduction of the Pap smear as routine care has reduced the cervical cancer death rate among American women by over 60 percent.
  • Breastfeeding supplies and support: Pregnant and post-partum women will have access to comprehensive lactation support and counseling, as well as breastfeeding equipment. Breastfeeding is beneficial to both maternal and infant health. In fact, research suggests that if 90 percent of women breastfed exclusively for 6 months, 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented. However, nursing supplies and breast pumps can cost up to $1,000. These costs will no longer prevent women from breastfeeding their children.
  • HPV DNA Testing: HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that causes genital warts and cervical cancer. While the Pap Smear, a test given at annual well-woman visits, identifies the virus, women over age 30 will have access to the more advanced HPV DNA test once every three years. The HPV DNA test screens for high cancer-risk HPV strains, and is often conducted after an ambiguous Pap result. However, women will have access to this (free) test even if their Pap results are normal. This screening is an especially important preventive measure, as an estimated 20 million Americans are infected with HPV, with 5.5 million new cases reported annually.
  • STI counseling and HIV testing and counseling: Sexually active women will gain access to annual counseling on HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These sessions have been shown to reduce risky behaviors, yet only 28 percent of women aged 18 to 44 years reported having discussed STIs with their doctor. With copay-free access to testing and counseling, women will be informed and empowered to take control of their own health.
  • Contraception and contraceptive counseling: Women will be eligible to receive all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and contraceptive counseling. Contraception is basic preventive health care for women. Of women ages 15-44, 99 percent who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one form of contraception in their lives. Further, contraception use is critical to appropriate birth spacing and intended pregnancy, which result in improved maternal health and better birth outcomes.
  • Domestic violence screening: All women will qualify for screening and counseling for domestic and interpersonal violence. Approximately 25 percent of women will be affected by domestic violence during their lives, and these screenings help detect abuse earlier, improving safety and health for women and children.
  • Gestational diabetes testing: All women who are 24 to 28 weeks pregnant, as well as those at high risk for this complication, will have access to gestational diabetes testing. About 18 percent of pregnant women will be affected by the disease, which can result in serious complications for both baby and mother if left untreated.

These preventive services are an investment in not only the health of women, but that of their children and partners as well. There are still many barriers for women to break down, but the ACA’s new provision brings us one step closer to health and gender equality. For the millions of Coloradans who will benefit from this law, that means that being a women just got a little easier.

Ashley Mayo is the strategic engagement fellow at Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.

Dear SCOTUS: Don’t Deny Us

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

This month, the Supreme Court of the United States will rule on Obamacare (a.k.a the Affordable Care Act/the new health care law).  While there is a lot of speculation about what will happen to Obamacare in the next few weeks, there is one thing we know for sure: it is working.  Millions of Americans have already benefited from the new law… and there is still more to come.

The numbers speak for themselves. Currently, 54 million Americans receive life-saving preventative care thanks to Obamacare. 2.5 million people under 26 remain on their parents’ health insurance. 50,000 people with pre-existing conditions are now covered-a number set to grow by leaps and bounds when denial of people from coverage for pre-existing conditions ends in 2014.

With the outcome of the Supreme Court case looming, the thought of so many Americans losing access to better quality and more affordable health care is truly frightening.  That is why we are launched a new video, “Don’t Deny Us.” People from across Colorado and the United States submitted photos to us to show that Obamacare has helped them and their families and to tell their stories with one simple statement: “Don’t Deny Us.”  They want everyone to understand that Obamacare is helping real people.  It is helping all of us. We put those photos together into the video below.

Please watch and share, because it’s important these voices be heard.

Also posted at Moms Rising.

Expanding access to health care? Thanks Obamacare!

(We’re suckers for chutzpah. – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Why do some people treat Obamacare like a 4-letter word?  It is a 9-letter word that stands for more kids covered by health insurance, better access for women to health care and Congress having the same health care as the rest of us. That deserves a big thank you.  

Today, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado Education launched “Thanks Obamacare,” an online campaign highlighting Obamacare and the ways it helps America’s families, individuals and small businesses. Visit www.thanksobamacare.org to check out the new campaign. Spoiler Alert: care wins out.

On the website, You’ll also find the top 10 reasons to Thank Obamacare.  These are the things that people are not talking about enough, like that Congress will have the same health care as the rest of us, insurance companies can’t kick sick people off coverage and people can stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26.

The truth is, Obamacare lowers the cost of care, expands access to care and improves the quality of care. We want to take ‘Obamacare’ back from the anti-reform naysayers because the reality is Obamacare has been a huge boost to families across the U.S.  It is making it easier and more affordable for families and to get the healthcare they need, when they need it.

You can join the happy conversation on Twitter at #ThanksObamacare or by following @ThanksObamacare.

There is a lot to Thank Obamacare for.  So let’s get to it. Share the video, tweet, like us on Facebook.

Health reform NOT driving up rates, Colorado Division of Insurance proves

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

At the end of last week, at a bad time in the news cycle, the Colorado Division of Insurance released a stunning piece of actuarial data crunching. They looked at the rate filings for increases to health insurance premium renewal filings for 2011 and drilled all the way down into the “why are rates so high” question.

Their answer: Don’t blame the Affordable Care Act. In Colorado, the new provisions of federal health reform have contributed, at MAXIMUM 5% to the overall increase of health insurance premiums. And the 5% rates are the outliers; most are in the 1-3 % range.

Yet the health industry and others trying to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act have blamed it for increases of “20%!” “25%!” “30%!” And while the media has widely reported the exaggerated hyperbole of NFIB and the U.S. Chamber about the increases in health insurance premiums, they haven’t been nearly as eager to report the facts that DOI has released.

From DOI’s press release:

“It’s a hot issue for many people, and we figured the best way to address the rumors was to publish the facts, so people could see for themselves what is driving the price of health insurance,” said Marcy Morrison, Commissioner of Insurance.

In fact, Division of Insurance has released a chart on how much each new mandate in federal reform has affected rates. For paying an additional 0-5% on your health insurance, you get:

– expansion of coverage for young adults up to age 26

– elimination of pre-existing conditions for kids up to 19

– phasing out of annual limit

– removal of lifetime limits

– prohibiting companies from dropping when you get sick

– covering preventative services with $0 cost sharing

The difference this time is that you actually get something for your money.

Read the DOI’s fact sheet on factors affecting rates in 2010. And don’t believe the hype.

Health Reform Improving Lives of Coloradans

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

September 23rd Provisions Bring Consumers Accountability, Fairness, Security

Dede de Percin, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative

For years Coloradans have lived with uncertainty about their health insurance- lifetime caps, recissions, coverage for life-saving screenings.  New provisions that begin on September 23rd, the 6-month anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, address some of the biggest concerns consumers had about the failing health system.  

These new requirements will help transform worry about coverage into stability, security, and peace of mind for health care consumers.

As of September 23rd, new and renewing health insurance policies must:

Stop Dropping Policyholders

Up until the Affordable Care Act, bottom-line obsessed insurance companies routinely cancel individual coverage of policyholders diagnosed with a serious and expensive disease like cancer.  Congressional hearing testimony in 2009 revealed that three major carriers canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.  Employees at these companies were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners cites an average of 3.7 “recissions” (or insured people dropped after they get sick) per 1,000 policies.  Since 345,000 individuals purchase insurance in the individual market in Colorado, about 1,300 of our insured friends or family members were at-risk of being dropped from the coverage they think will protect them during an illness.

Eliminate Lifetime Insurance Limits

What a relief to know that your insurance will be there for as long as you need it if you are involved in an accident or become sick.  Beginning September 23rd health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to place lifetime limits on how much they pay out to cover claims.

This will bring great peace of mind to the Wilkes family, whose seven-year old son Thomas was born with hemophilia.  As a co-founder of a telecommunications company, father Nathan was shocked when his company’s insurer raised the price for the entire group of 120 employees to compensate for Thomas’ treatments, and instituted a brand-new $1 million cap on coverage, which the boy exceeded in just over one year.  Within another year, he burned through the state’s “last resort” insurer CoverColorado’s $1 million cap. At that point, a social worker suggested Nathan and his wife divorce so their son could qualify for Medicaid. That’s just wrong.    

Extend Coverage to Young Adults to Age 26

Colorado families and young adults will feel more secure that dependent health care coverage will cover children up to age 26 starting September 23rd.  This will affect as many as 18,600 young adults in Colorado and 1.64 million young adults nationwide, regardless of tax dependence or independence, student, employed or married.  “Grandfathered” plans can exclude this coverage, but only until 2014.

This health care security is a relief to CSU environmental policy graduate student David Taft, who now is able to pursue internships in his field that provide great job experiences but don’t offer health care coverage.  “I am so relieved I can stay on my parents’ health care plan so I can concentrate on learning at my sustainable development internship to prepare for my future career.”

Provide Affordable Preventive Care

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Regular and recommended screenings for diseases such as breast and prostate cancer, as well as essential health services, such as immunizations – save lives and money, and improve quality of life, stability of families, and productivity at work.  Policyholders will benefit from affordable preventive care, as insurers will be required to provide coverage for critical services such as immunizations or mammograms without charging co-pays or other forms of cost sharing.

There were literally hundreds of changes to the health system that took affect on March 23rd, the day the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.  In the past six months, we’ve seen additional reforms implemented, such as the federal high-risk pool and funding to help increase the Division of Insurance’s capacity to review health insurance premium rate increase filings.  

September 23rd is another big milestone in health reform, as these new provisions will help ensure healthier kids, families, and individuals in communities throughout Colorado. That’s the peace of mind we need and deserve.

Dede de Percin is the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative executive director.  CCHI’s membership includes over 60 statewide nonprofit organizations representing well over a million Colorado consumers of health care.