When the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as ObamaCare) was signed into law in 2010, one of its major provisions was the creation of health insurance exchanges. Each state will have an exchange up and running no later than January 1, 2014, although some states will opt to have the federal government run their health insurance exchanges for them. In June 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the ACA, including the mandate that requires everyone to have health insurance beginning in 2014. The mandate was necessary to eliminate underwriting of pre-existing conditions. Some states – including Colorado – had already been hard at work creating their own health insurance exchanges before the SCOTUS decision, but there is still much work to be done in the next year. The Colorado Health Insurance Benefits Exchange will begin accepting applications in October 2013, with coverage effective dates beginning in January 2014. In addition to being a marketplace where individuals and small businesses can compare health insurance options, the exchange will also be a one-stop shop where applicants can determine their eligibility for federal health insurance premium subsidies. Those subsidies are expected to be a key aspect of making health insurance a bit more affordable for a good chunk of the population. All individual and small group plans sold within the Colorado health insurance benefits exchange will have to provide “essential benefits” that are at least as good as those provided by the Kaiser small group plan that was recently selected as the state’s benchmark plan. (more details about the benchmark plan here). Plans sold within the exchange will be classified as platinum, gold, silver or bronze depending on the percentage of costs that they cover (60% is the minimum level of coverage for “bronze” plans), and “catastrophic” plans will be available to select population groups (availability will be based on age and income: catastrophic plans will only be available to people under 30 or those with documented financial hardships who are unable to afford better coverage). It has been nearly a decade since we began offering online health insurance comparisons for our health insurance clients in Colorado, and we’re very familiar with the online health insurance shopping process. We’ve been writing about the exchange-creation process ever since the ACA was signed into law, and we’ll continue to update this page as we add new information about the Colorado health insurance exchange. If you have questions, please contact us.
Colorado Health Benefits Exchange Progress
Here are some of the articles we’ve written about health insurance exchanges, including many that are specific to the Colorado Health Benefits Exchange:
- Colorado Health Insurance Marketplace Exchange launches “Connect for Health Colorado” website.
- Colorado’s health insurance exchange is on track to open on time and provide all of the promised services: small business and individual sales platforms, with an option for employees to select from multiple plan options in the small business exchange.
- Although many exchanges were predicted to be a “trainwreck” – Colorado elected to set up its own health insurance exchange, and we’ll probably see better results here and in other states that did the same, when compared with states that let the federal government run their exchanges.
- Although the Colorado health benefits exchange was created in a bipartisan legislative effort, political tensions soon escalated. On a national level, some critics have even said that applicants in states with federally-run exchanges might not qualify for premium tax credits, although is possible that could have been more about political posturing in an election year.
- One of the early concerns that arose when Colorado was putting together a board to oversee the creation of the exchange was the potential conflicts of interests and biases among potential board members. Creating a balanced exchange board was a challenge.
- HHS has laid out general guidelines for the exchanges, but they have been generally supportive of states creating their own unique programs, tailored to each state’s needs.
- The Colorado exchange has received millions of dollars in federal grants to cover the costs related to getting the program off the ground. It will have to be self-sufficient by 2015.
- There has been a lot of argument about the pros and cons of having the Colorado exchange linked to the Colorado Benefits Management System that provides food assistance and Medicaid. The long-term goal is to have the two programs be inter-operable, but much work remains to be done. And the federal government’s plan to have the exchanges screen people not only for premium subsidy eligibility, but also for Medicaid and CHIP eligibility has met with some resistance from Colorado lawmakers.
- Who is going to answer questions, help applicants sort through the options for health insurance in the exchange, and assist with the claims process after insurance is in place? My guess is that many of the services currently provided by brokers will still be needed once the exchange is in place. The exchange has been touted as a shopping platform that will provide one-stop shopping as well as lower cost health insurance. But whether it can deliver on that promise remains to be seen.
- Colorado’s exchange has been troubled by IT problems, but still received high marks for overall progress in a recent Urban Institute report on the progress of the health insurance exchanges.