Local organizations expect enrollment in the state’s health insurance exchange to be strong, despite President Donald Trump’s recent elimination of cost-sharing payments to insurance companies.
Insurance premiums through Connect for Health Colorado are expected rise on average about 33 percent for individuals instead of about 26 percent because the payments will be eliminated, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance.
In La Plata County, about 3,600 people are enrolled in the exchange, and in Montezuma County about 1,000 people are enrolled, according to a Connect for Health Colorado report.
Consumers who qualify for tax credits will see those credits rise along with premiums, and it’s possible some people will not pay more for insurance in 2018, said Kevin O’Connor, a certified health coverage guide with San Juan Basin Public Health.
“People will still have roughly the same and potentially a little lower costs,” O’Connor said.
The rising tax credits will also offset the potential savings that the federal government might expect to see by eliminating the cost-sharing payments, said Joe Hanel, a spokesman for Colorado Health Institute.
The cost-sharing payments, also called cost-sharing reductions, that Trump recently eliminated were paid to insurance companies so they could offer more affordable plans to qualifying individuals.
Those qualifying individuals will still benefit from more affordable rates next year, said Dave Hart, the health program director with the Piñon Project Family Resource Center in Cortez.
“That health insurance companies will absorb the termination of the CSRs” he said.
Those who don’t qualify for tax credits or more affordable plans because of the cost-sharing reductions could see much higher premiums, Hanel said.
Some of these consumers bought plans directly through insurance companies before the Affordable Care Act and maintained that business relationship.
Out of the 435,000 people on the individual market statewide, 248,000 policyholders would face the premium increase, according to Colorado Health Institute.
Many people in Southwest Colorado benefit from the tax credits.
In Montezuma County last year, the Piñon Project helped almost 200 people enroll in Connect for Health, and only two did not qualify for tax credits, Hart said.
How Trump’s decision and any subsequent increases in premiums may affect the state exchange is uncertain, Hanel said.
“Rising premiums are something that really lead to some people making the decision not to have insurance,” said Vincent Plymell, a spokesman for the Division of Insurance.
Montezuma County is facing an additional challenge because Cigna will no longer offer insurance through the exchange next year, leaving Anthem as the only provider for residents looking to buy plans on the exchange, Hart said.
Two carriers are available through the exchange in La Plata County, Anthem and Friday Health Plans.
San Juan Basin Public Health will hold two interactive presentations in Durango about the state health care exchange from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday and at the same time Oct. 24. at the Durango Public Library, 1900 East Third Ave. The presentation will cover what’s new and what remains unchanged under federal law.
A similar event will be held in Silverton from 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 2 at Silverton Town Hall.
San Juan Basin Public Health is also planning two open-enrollment events for people who have questions or who want to sign up for Medicaid, Child Health Plan Plus or Connect for Health Colorado.
The first open-enrollment event will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 2 at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, 2500 Main Ave., Durango. The second will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Archuleta County Human Services Office, 551 Hot Springs Blvd., Pagosa Springs.
No appointment is needed to attend either event.
For more information about these events, call Kevin O’Connor at 335-2021.