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Eagle County among unlucky 10 Colorado counties with just one ACA insurance plan

July 26, 2020, 12:16 pm

Kevin Patterson, CEO of the state’s Obamacare (ACA) health insurance market place, Connect for Health Colorado, met last week with members of Club 20 to inform them of increasing competition and more plans being offered on the state’s largely rural and underserved Western Slope for 2021. Unfortunately, Eagle County will only have one ACA individual-market carrier.

Kevin Patterson
Kevin Patterson

“This week, I visited (virtually) with Club 20 members and was thrilled to share recent news from the Division of Insurance that more Coloradans will have a choice in insurance companies during this Open Enrollment Period, as  the state has decreased the number of counties with only one issuer from 22 to 10,” Patterson wrote in an email blast. “This is an improvement in choice for many of Colorado’s communities.”

Open enrollment for 2021 runs from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15, 2021. The state recently announced there will be just 10 of 64 Colorado counties with only one ACA-compliant carrier on the individual (not linked to an employer) health insurance market in 2021, and Eagle County is one of them.

Efforts to launch a public market stalled in the state legislature this year due to the ongoing and worsening COVID-19 pandemic, as the U.S. Supreme Court considers finally doing away with Obamacare altogether next year despite repeated Republican failures to replace it with something better – and steadfast refusal to fix problems with the existing law.

2021 could be a tsunami year for uninsured individuals, with the pandemic broiling out of control and millions out of work and now thrown off their employer-based health insurance plans – and Eagle County could be at the very crest of that giant wave.

Anthem is the only ACA-compliant carrier (meaning it can’t deny customers for preexisting conditions such as COVID-19 infection) offered in Eagle County, and it runs about $1,600 a month for a family of four (before ACA tax credits … if eligible). Fortunately, Colorado was one of the states that used the ACA to expand Medicaid coverage in 2013, which may be the last resort for many Coloradans during the current crisis and beyond.

Unemployment in Eagle County, a rural resort area heavily reliant on global tourism, has surged to more than 20% at times since March.

“We know that job loss in Colorado is at an all-time high and with that comes loss of job-based health insurance,” Patterson emailed. “To help get the word out about getting covered through Connect for Health Colorado, our marketing team created an online Job Loss Toolkit for you to use. The toolkit includes electronic versions of a short flyer, our overview brochure (both in English and Spanish), our financial help chart, social media images and copy, and a 10-minute video about health insurance options after job loss.”

Now, here’s the state press release on the reduction in one-carrier counties in Colorado:

Next year will also see fewer counties with only one on-exchange company. 

DENVER (July 9, 2020) – Today, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), is releasing preliminary information about the insurance companies offering Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans for 2021. 

The same eight companies that offered individual health insurance plans (meaning not from an employer) in 2020 will return for 2021 – Anthem, Bright Health, Cigna Health, Denver Health, Friday Health, Kaiser, Rocky Mountain Health Plans and Oscar Health. 

And two of those companies, Rocky Mountain Health Plans and Bright Health, are planning to expand their footprints in Colorado next year, bringing down the number of counties with only one health insurance company selling plans on Connect for Health Colorado, from 22 to 10 counties. In 2021, Rocky will offer plans in the following counties which currently have Anthem as their only on-exchange company: Dolores, Garfield, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, Pitkin, San Juan and San Miguel. Rocky is also expanding into La Plata and Archuletta counties. Bright Health will be expanding into the following counties that currently only have one on-exchange company: Dolores, Grand, Lake, Montezuma and San Juan. They will also move into La Plata County. These expansions will leave Eagle, Jackson, Logan, Moffat, Phillips, Rio Blanco, Routt, Sedgwick, Washington and Yuma as the remaining counties with only one on-exchange health insurance company. 

Overall, the number of individual plans the companies propose to offer next year, both on-and off-exchange, is increasing from 264 to 324. In the small group market (for small employers with less than 100 employees), Bright Health will be a new player, offering 40 plans, while some companies are scaling back their offerings. There will still be over 400 plans from 13 companies in the small group market, but the total number of plans will go down for 2021.  

Kaiser is consolidating plans as they combine three separate service areas (Northern Colorado, Denver / Boulder and Colorado Springs / Pueblo) into one area. This is good news for consumers, as members in this expanded area will be free of the geographic service limitations each of those three areas currently impose. For 2021, members will not be cancelled, but will be slotted into their same plan with the expanded service area and new ID cards.

Preliminary information on the number of plans and insurance companies for the individual and small group market for 2021 can be found on the Division’s health insurance plan filings website. However, preliminary information regarding premiums will not be available until the end of July. The DOI is allowing the insurance companies to incorporate up-to-date data and assumptions related to COVID-19 through July 22nd.

The Division will make the preliminary premium information available in late July, after which the public is encouraged to comment on the insurance companies’ proposed plans and premiums. The DOI will then spend the rest of the summer conducting an in-depth review of this information and will release final, approved plans and premiums in early fall, ahead of the November 1 open enrollment start date. 

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