[…] Colorado already has a comprehensive small group benefits mandate. Until this year, one of the most glaring differences between small group and individual plans was that individual policies in Colorado were not required to cover maternity. But that changed in January when all new and renewing individual policies had to begin covering maternity. I would say that the primary difference now between most of the individual plans and small group plans in Colorado is that the small group policies are guaranteed issue, whereas the individual plans are medically underwritten. But in 2014, when the exchanges get underway, the individual policies will be guaranteed issue too. Individual policies are still quite a bit less expensive than group policies in Colorado, but I wonder if that will change too once the exchanges get underway? It would seem so, since the benefits and underwriting will be virtually identical.
The small group market in Colorado is already quite structured by state mandates. The individual market also has quite a few mandates, including the new maternity benefit mandate. But it appears that the individual policies that are sold in the exchanges beginning in 2014 will have benefits at least as comprehensive as the benefits offered by the largest small group plans in Colorado. That means that “bottom of the heap” individual plans (ie, the ones with tons of fine print and huge holes in their coverage) probably won’t be making an appearance in the exchange, or at least not without a serious overhaul. […]