may spike 
for some

Health insurance premiums on Colorado’s individual market for 2017 will be about 20 percent higher than those from this year, but not everyone will have to pay so much.

That large increase applies only to individuals who get their insurance through the state’s health care exchange — known as Connect For Health Colorado — who don’t qualify for federal tax credits, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Those who are qualified for credits and continue to have the same or cheaper plan as this year could see an average decrease in rates of about 11 percent to 29 percent, while others on the exchange can minimize their increase to about 13 percent by switching to a lower cost plan, the division said.

Meanwhile, the average person on employer-sponsored plans, which make up about 51 percent of all insured Coloradans, all will see an increase of about 2.1 percent, said Marguerite Salazar, Colorado’s insurance commissioner.

Unlike other states that are seeing a dwindling number of health care insurers who are participating in their states’ exchanges, Colorado residents still have many to chose from, she said.

Salazar said it isn’t the government that causes the increases, but drugmakers and health care providers that are increasing their prices.

“Health care costs are increasing across the country and those costs push up premiums,” Salazar said. “The recent EpiPen scandal is a prime example. The drug maker raised prices stating it did not expect consumers to pay the increases but rather their health insurance plans. However, when insurance plans must pay those increased costs, it will show up in consumers’ health insurance premiums.”

Salazar was referring to recent reports that the price of the EpiPen, which is used to treat severe allergic reactions, has risen about 500 percent since the rights for it were sold to the pharmaceutical company Mylan in 2007.

While Salazar said there is an ample number of carriers offering plans in Colorado, some major ones have opted out for next year, including UnitedHealthcare, Anthem and Humana.

Putting the blame squarely on President Barack Obama and his federal Affordable Health Care Act, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said the increases will leave some 92,000 Coloradans searching for a new insurer.

“Once again, Colorado will be faced with skyrocketing premium increases thanks to a law that was sold to them on the premise of affordability, choice and access to care,” Gardner said. “President Obama repeatedly told the American people that, ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it,’ and stated the average family of four would pay $2,500 less annually by the end of this first term. Now, these broken promises are having a dramatic effect on hardworking families in Colorado and throughout the country.”

Grand Junction-based Rocky Mountain Health Plans said earlier this year that it wouldn’t participate in the statewide exchange outside of Mesa County in 2017. That decision was made months before it announced in July that it was being purchased by UnitedHealthcare.

Leanne Hart, spokeswoman for Rocky, said the insurer has no plans to reverse that decision. The insurer created a new tiered approach to its plan, called Monument Health, that has helped lower costs for private payers in the county, something it ultimately hopes to extend to others in the state.

The plan’s withdrawal from the exchange left about 10,000 non-Mesa County residents looking for other plans, but it involved only its commercial individual and family markets and not its Medicare, employer group or Medicaid members, she said.

“It is our hope and expectation to work with policymakers and key stakeholders to develop sustainable models of care similar to Monument Health in other Colorado communities,” Hart said. “(That) will enable us to offer new individual and family products in those markets in the coming years.”


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