State proposes change to insurance rating areas

The Colorado Division of Insurance is seeking federal approval to change the state’s geographic rating areas for health insurance next year, a move designed to address concerns about high premiums in a resort-region area including Garfield County.

The agency said this morning it will be requesting approval for the change from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties are now in a separate area that is said to have the nation’s highest premiums. That has elicited objections from elected officials and the public within that area.
The state currently has 11 rating areas. Seven, including Mesa County, consist of urban-based, metropolitan statistical area counties, and four are outside such counties.

The division’s proposal would reduce the 11 to nine, leaving the seven metropolitan areas in place. The remaining four would be reduced to two,
one of them covering western Colorado and the other taking in eastern and southern Colorado.

“Consolidating the higher health cost regions into larger rating areas will spread the risks and the costs of providing health care more equitably over a larger population,” said Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar. “We understand that people across the state are concerned about high health care costs and the impact on health insurance premiums. This is the fairest way of addressing the issue and working toward stable premiums in all regions of the state.”

The division had offered three ratings options last week at a meeting of its Health Care Cost Study Group, based on an actuarial analysis conducted for the division, and accepted comments through Wednesday. It received 138 comments addressing the options and 117 were supportive of the nine-area proposal.

The division is extending, from May 15 to June 6, its deadline for insurance companies to provide plans and rates for next year, to let them adjust for the new areas.


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