Although we’re still at least a week away from knowing the specific details on rates and plan designs for policies that will be sold in the Connect for Health Colorado exchange, the Division of Insurance has approved 242 plans that will be available in the exchange from 13 Colorado health insurance carriers. In late May, the number of carriers stood at 11 and the number of plans was 250+. But as we noted last week, there was still a lot going on behind the scenes over the summer, and some carriers had to resubmit plan information that was not accepted in the spring. The final count is 150 plans that will be available to individuals and 92 for small groups (keep in mind that this is just for plans within the exchange. There will be lots of other ACA-compliant plans available outside the exchange).
The plans for individuals will be available from ten different carriers (All Savers, Cigna, Colorado Choice, Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative, Denver Health Medical Plan, HMO Colorado (Anthem), Humana, Kaiser, New Health Ventures and Rocky Mountain HMO). Although there are some new names in this list, there are also plenty of familiar ones (All Savers is a UnitedHealth company, which means that the main carriers that currently sell policies in the individual market in Colorado will all be represented in the exchange). Although we haven’t yet seen the final premium and plan details, it appears that Colorado will continue to have a robust individual health insurance market in 2014, both in and out of the exchange.
For consumers who will qualify for a subsidy, the exchange is definitely the place to be – subsidies are only available in the exchange. Consumers who do not qualify for a subsidy (either because their income is too high or because they have access to an employer group plan that is technically “affordable” but might actually be outside of their budget) can shop within the exchange (via an approved broker or directly through the exchange) or they can go outside of the exchange where additional ACA-compliant individual plans will also be available (for example, Assurant will still be offering individual plans in 2014, but only off-exchange). Between the exchange and the off-exchange options, it appears that there will be plenty of selection for Coloradans looking for individual health insurance.
When I use our current quote software to generate individual quotes for a family in Northern Colorado, I get 330 plan options from which to choose. It’s true that within the exchange, there will be less than half that many, but I doubt that consumers will really notice. On the contrary, I’d say it might be easier to wade through the options when faced with 150 choices instead of 330. And although there will be fewer total plans in the exchange than you currently see on broker sites, the 330 plans that our software quotes are from seven carriers, and there will be 10 in the exchange. More carriers and fewer total plan design choices seems like a better deal all around. Competition stems from the number of carriers involved, not the number of plans available. Although there are currently far more than seven carriers offering individual policies in Colorado, those seven represent the lion’s share of the market. Once the exchange is up and running with ten carriers, it’s likely that the vast majority of the individual market in Colorado will be spread across those ten carriers (especially since many of those carriers are also going to be represented in the off-exchange market). And 150 different plan designs from 10 different carriers seems like it should provide plenty of options for just about every consumer’s needs and budgets – especially when subsidies are taken into consideration.
Connect For Health Colorado will be up and running on October 1, and consumers will be able to start shopping for policies with effective dates starting January 1, 2014. We’re going through the training process to make sure that our brokerage will be approved to work with the Colorado exchange so that we can help our clients both in and out of the exchange. We’re optimistic that the policies available at Connect for Health Colorado will provide plenty of choice for our clients who qualify for premium subsidies, and we’re looking forward to working with the exchange.