Potential legislation could change how health insurance works in Colorado

The Colorado Health Insurance Exchange Oversight Committee (a group of five Senators and five Representatives) met last week to discuss possible legislative ideas that could alter the health insurance system in Colorado.  The committee “passed” four bill ideas, which means they’ll be drafted by the Legislative Council this week and discussed in more detail at another meeting in late October.  Two of them stood out as particularly interesting:

  • Change the annual open enrollment period to be a rolling process based on the oldest policyholder’s birthday (introduced by Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain).  This is the exact idea that we suggested last year, and we’re absolutely in support of it.  It would likely require a 1332 waiver and would also have a steep learning curve in terms of getting all Colorado residents on board.  It’s already challenging to keep people informed about open enrollment dates.  Last year, just before open enrollment began, 89% of the uninsured population nationwide were unaware of when open enrollment would begin… and that was despite the nonstop nationwide news covera annual open enrollment period to be a rolling process based on the oldest policyholder’s birthdayge of the dates.  Switching Colorado away from the system followed by the rest of the country and onto our own unique schedule would require a significant amount of public education on the issue.  But it would almost certainly make things better in the long run, with a system in which Connect for Health Colorado and the carriers could maintain level staffing year-round, without having to rely on temporary staff.  And we wouldn’t need to have everyone in the individual market competing during the same three month window for assistance from brokers, navigators, call-center reps and carriers.
  • Allow employers to subsidize employees purchasing individual market coverage (introduced by John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins).  Colorado has a long history with this topic.  Personally, I don’t see any problem with allowing employers to subsidize employees’ individual health insurance premiums now that coverage is guaranteed issue in the individual market (prior to 2014, there were ethical concerns, since eligible employees were allowed to enroll in group plans with no medical underwriting, and that was not the case in the individual market).  But I’m curious as to how Colorado would go about implementing a change like this.  I’m doubtful that it could be done with just a 1332 waiver, since the rules against employer reimbursement of employee premiums seem to be pretty ironclad, and direct from the IRS (original rule here, transitional relief here, and FAQs here).

If you have thoughts about these issues – or any others that pertain to health insurance in Colorado – the legislative Exchange Oversight Committee has contact information on their website.  You can also provide Jay with feedback at any time, and he can share it with the Connect for Health Colorado Board of Directors.

About Louise Norris

Louise Norris has been writing about health insurance and healthcare reform since 2006. In addition to the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, she also writes for healthinsurance.org, medicareresources.org, Verywell, Spark by ADP, and Boost by ADP, and Gusto. Follow on twitter and facebook.

Comments

  1. Vanessa Isaacson says

    I’m relieved to see that Colorado–especially Mr. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins–realizes how important it is to allow employers to subsidize employees purchasing individual market coverage. Recent federal action, and I believe an unintended consequence of the ACA, has taken away the ability of most small businesses (those with more than one employee) to reimburse their workers for premiums and out of pocket costs. Notably a small businesses use of Health Reimbursement Arrangements has been taken away. As employees continue to face high out of pocket and deductible costs, employers that can’t afford a group health insurance policy need these types of alternative healthcare options.

    Congress is trying to cut small businesses a break. I encourage any small business who is looking for affordable healthcare options to learn more about federal initiatives that will restore an important healthcare option: http://zane.tips/1haqgnO

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