Gov. Polis touts lower insurance premiums with reinsurance authorization |

Gov. Polis touts lower insurance premiums with reinsurance authorization

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis smiles Friday after signing a bill alongside Sen. Kerry Donovan, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and Rep. Dylan Roberts outside of Blue Moose Pizza in Lionshead Village. The governor signed a suite of bills into law, including landmark legislation that will a create a public state option for health care insurance.
Chris Dillmann |

Western Coloradans on marketplace insurance will see a major reduction in premiums, but that could also mean lower premiums for other types of health coverage.

Gov. Jared Police announced Wednesday that Colorado has received a federal waiver to offer reinsurance — a kind of insurance to help health insurance companies cover high costs without raising premiums.

“This is such terrific news for western Colorado,” Polis said in an interview.

The lower premiums make health insurance more affordable for the uninsured, meaning more people will likely get coverage, he said.

“With the rates coming down so much with our reinsurance program, more people will be able to afford insurance than have it today,” Polis said. “That helps bring down rates for everybody, including employer-based insurance and small group insurance, because we all pay for the high cost of the uninsured.”

As a result of the reinsurance bill, it is expected that premiums on the Connect for Health marketplace will drop an average of 30 percent for most of the Western Slope in the enrollment period beginning Nov. 1.

With financial assistance, the average premium for rural areas is around $107 per month. In Garfield County, the average monthly tax credit on the premiums was $806.

Garfield County had 2,481 people enrolled in the health care exchange as of June 30, according to Connect for Health.

Premiums are much higher in rural areas, but because of the tax credits in the exchange, the price the insured person pays stays comparable to other areas.

Under the reinsurance program, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services takes the funds that would go to financial assistance, and invests it into the reinsurance pool. That then lowers the initial premium amount.

All of that is part of the Affordable Care Act, but Texas filed a lawsuit in February that is trying to end the government’s health insurance program.

If a court strikes down the ACA, it would have negative affects on the reinsurance program, Polis said.

Other changes to the ACA could make insurance rates rise as well, Polis added.

“There’s always political efforts to change (the ACA), or roll it back,” Polis said. “Any changes could create great chaos and higher rates, so we’re hoping to have a period of predictability.”

Colorado joins Alaska, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Wisconsin as the eighth state with a reinsurance program, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Polis was also pleased about the Trump administration’s program to allow imports of some drugs from other countries, where certain pharmaceuticals sell for a much lower cost.

“Prescription drugs are about 20 percent of health-care costs, and Americans are paying five, eight, even 10 times as much for the exact same prescription drug that’s available in Canada and other countries,” Polis said.

The high drug costs also result in higher premiums, he said.

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