Colorado health insurance marketplace: history and
news of the state’s exchange

BCBS of Colorado and Bright Health offering plans for 2018; cost of CSR added to silver premiums,making other
metal levels particularly affordable

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Louise Norris
Individual health insurance and health reform authority; broker
March 22, 2018

More Colorado coverage

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    Insurance Guide
    • A guide to health insurance in
      your state.
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    • Your state’s Medicaid expansion,
      eligibilty, contacts
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    • Insurance for those over 64

Highlights and updates

  • 2018 enrollment down 4.6% from 2017
  • One insurer in 2017, but Bright Health joined in 2018
  • Average rate increase 15.6%, including added premiums to cover CSR cost
  • Cost of CSR added to silver exchange, other metal levels particularly cheap for some
  • 2018 rates and new insurer indicate death spiral no longer a danger

Colorado exchange overview

Colorado has paved the path for the nation’s health care for many years. They had made maternity coverage mandatory as well as banned gender-based premiums long before the Affordable Care Act was implemented. They were also the second state (after Vermont) to purse single-payer health care but it was rejected widely. In the state, there are seven insurers. The counties with the most coverage (six insurers) are: Denver, Jefferson, and Arapahoe.

Open enrollment for 2018 began November 1, 2017 and will continue until January 12, 2018. Open enrollment ended December 15, 2017 for most states that use, but Colorado extended that deadline. By December 17, 2017 nearly 149,000 people had enrolled for health coverage for 2018 which is a 7% increase from the previous year.

Health Ratings

In 2017, Colorado was ranked 5th on the Scorecard of State Health System Performance as well as 10th in America’s Rankings in 2016. Colorado has some of the lowest rates of diabetes, cancer deaths, cardiovascular deaths, obesity, and physical inactivity in the country.

Colorado’s state marketplace is called Connect for Health Colorado. Under the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid and in the first two years of this expansion, 289,000 people enrolled. In 2017, the bill H.B.1235 passed in the House but died in the Senate a week later which would have provided state-based premium assistant to those with incomes between 400-500% of the poverty level that live in the three most expensive health insurance rating areas. These recipients generally pay more than 15% of their income to health insurance.

Colorado and Medicaid

By March 2018, Medicaid enrollment had increased 72% to around 1.34 million thanks for the Affordable Care Act and Colorado’s Medicaid expansion. Colorado came in at 3rd place (tying with Oregon) for largest increase in Medicaid enrollment.


Risks in Colorado

In 1991, Colorado created CoverColorado to supply and alternative for people who were unable to get medical coverage due to a pre-existing medical condition. The Affordable Care Act pretty much eradicated high-risk pools so that a person’s medical history was no longer an issue. CoverColorado stopped enrolling new applicants at the end of 2013 but they helped recipients to transition into other medical plans.

Medicare in Colorado

Nationally, about 17% of the population is enrolled in Medicare. In Colorado, 14.5% of the state is enrolled. Of the Medicare recipients, 85% qualify on age while the other 16% are because of a disability. Annually, Medicare pays about $8,727 per enrollee. Colorado ranks 28th in Medicare spending which is about $5.3 billion each year.


Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.