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Nearly 200,000 Colorado residents signed up for health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado during the open enrollment period that ended Jan. 15, a record that officials say could be due to the COVID-19 pandemic and affordability of insurance due to tax credits.
“I think COVID-19 has made everyone more aware of the importance of health care and coverage,” Sen. John Hickenlooper said during a Tuesday press conference announcing the numbers. “It’s made more people in this country and in Colorado aware of the importance of a healthy, robust public health system where people not just have coverage, but can get access when they need it.”
There were 198,412 people who signed up for a plan during the enrollment period through Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance marketplace created through the Affordable Care Act. Last year, it took until June to reach the same number. In all of 2021, approximately 227,000 people enrolled.
“This is the highest end-of-open-enrollment total we’ve had since we opened for business in 2013. I believe our record level of enrollments is a testament to improvements we’ve made in the enrollment process and the strides we’ve made in making plans affordable,” Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson said during a Tuesday press conference.
Patterson said that 75% of people who signed up this year qualified for savings via the premium tax credits passed through the American Rescue Plan Act last year. The ARPA provision increased the tax credit amount established through the ACA and expanded eligibility to people with incomes above 400% of the federal poverty line. That translates to approximately 52% savings on premium costs for individuals.
Colorado Insurance Commissioner Mike Conway said the tax credits were a “game changer” for enrollment numbers in the state and across the country.
The expansion expires this year, however, and Democratic lawmakers are pushing for its extension, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In my view, you can draw a straight line between the country’s COVID outcomes, the disparate outcomes we’ve had, and our deeply unequal access to health care. So we have more work ahead,” Sen. Michael Bennet said.
He wants to extend the premium tax credits until at least 2025 with the goal of making them permanent.
Bennet and Hickenlooper said they believe the odds of expansion are high, even with Republican opposition, because members recognize the significant drop in insurance costs in their states. If the premium tax credit isn’t expanded, people will see an increase in their taxes and health care premiums.
“That’s why we’ve got to get back next week and start to fight for some common sense in health care policy and tax policy,” he said.
State officials have also launched a disaster relief special enrollment period until March 16 in light of the Marshall Fire and current COVID-19 surge.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: email@example.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.