Insurance premiums for those who purchase insurance through the Colorado health exchange program are set to increase an average 26.7 percent across the state next year, the Division of Insurance announced Wednesday.
The increases will vary based on where a customer lives and his or her age, a news release said. Regional pricing is not yet available, but Southwest Colorado is likely to be on the high side for premiums through Connect for Health Colorado.
“If the regional patterns are anything like the past couple of years, then people in Southwest Colorado might expect even higher prices for some insurance plans than the averages we saw today,” said Joe Hanel, spokesman for Colorado Health Institute.
There are about 450,000 people who purchase individual plans through the state exchange. About 3,600 La Plata County residents are enrolled in the state health exchange, according to a Connect for Health Colorado report. La Plata County enrollments have increased annually, said Kevin O’Connor, health coverage guide with San Juan Basin Public Health Department, in an email.
For those who qualify, the price increases will be offset by tax credits, the news release said. O’Connor said about 90 percent of the people who work with San Juan Basin Health to get insurance through the exchange qualify for tax credits.
Enrollment in the exchange could be affected if people do not realize their tax credit assistance will also go up, he said.
It’s hard to say exactly why prices are going up, but it’s likely driven by several factors, Hanel said.
Health care costs are high, prescription drug prices are rising and the people who are most likely to buy insurance in this expensive market tend to be sick, and so insurance companies raise prices to cover their cost of care, he said.
Political uncertainty could also be a factor in the prices.
It is unknown whether President Donald Trump’s administration will reimburse insurance companies for plans designed for people below certain income levels, known as cost-sharing reduction plans, O’Connor said.
The premiums would be up to 14 percent higher if the Department of Insurance had used the requests submitted by insurance companies that did not take federal funding for cost-sharing reduction plans into account, according to Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar.
Salazar called on Congress to take action to stabilize the state insurance market and “sweep away uncertainty.”
Colorado Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet both promised to work on health care reform after Wednesday’s announcement.
“We must work together to increase competition, transparency and affordability to improve our entire health care system,” Bennet said in a news release.