Colorado health exchange users could see steep rate increases for 2016


Photo -  Customer representatives answer phone calls Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, at the Colorado Springs call center for Connect for Health Colorado. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)




Average health insurance rates across Colorado’s individual market could rise more steeply in 2016 – though a couple companies might buck that trend, according to preliminary rate filings announced Monday.

Six health insurers proposed double-digit rate increases for next year – some in the range of 21 to 34 percent – while two others lowered their prices, the Colorado Division of Insurance reported.

The figures offered the first glimpse of health insurance rates that people without government or employer-based coverage may have to pay in 2016. Included were possible plans offered on Colorado’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, though most will be sold elsewhere.

Despite generally higher rates, insurers’ prices varied significantly, said Vincent Plymell, an insurance division spokesman.

“Don’t take any of this information that came out today to heart – those numbers can change,” he said.

The increases mirror an emerging national trend of double-digit rate hikes. Preliminary insurance rates filed on the federal exchange,, revealed several increases well above 10 percent next year due to higher-than-expected costs from people who gained coverage under the health law and the expense of prescription drugs.

In Colorado, 10 of the 17 companies in Colorado’s individual market proposed rate increases.

Rocky Mountain Health Maintenance Organization, part of Rocky Mountain Health Plans, proposed the biggest rate hike for 2016, asking regulators to approve a 34.4 percent increase. Three other companies – Humana Health Plan, Colorado Health Insurance Cooperative and New Health Ventures – asked to raise rates by more than 20 percent.

In contrast, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company and UnitedHealthcare Life Insurance Company each proposed lower rates in 2016. Cigna proposed a 5.1 percent decrease, while UnitedHealthcare wants to lower rates 2.3 percent.

The insurers submitted their proposed rates in late May, and the Division of Insurance will review each plan in the coming months to ensure they meet state and federal laws. During that process, regulators also will ask insurers to justify their premiums and benefits.

Regulators stressed that the figures were preliminary and could change by September, when the agency finishes reviewing each requested rate. They also represent a small slice of the overall health insurance market, because many more people are insured through their employers.

Though preliminary, the rate filings announced Monday could signify insurers’ best attempt yet at matching rates to their risk pools.

For the first time, insurers had a full year’s worth of claims data under the Affordable Care Act to use while setting rates. The health law created entirely new risk pools in 2014, and insurers only had a few months of claims to work off of while setting their 2015 rates.

“Actuarial sciences look to the future, you know, trying to predict the future,” Plymell said. “But if you can base it off of real data, you’re hopefully going to a lot closer.”

Rate increases among small group plans were less drastic, with most staying in single digits.

Two Rocky Mountain Health Plans companies proposed double-digit price jumps – 28.8 percent and 11.7 percent.

Meanwhile, two UnitedHealthcare companies proposed decreases of roughly 3 percent each.

In all, 1,377 individual market plans were submitted, with 156 of those being dental plans. Of the remaining 1,221 medical plans, 425 would be sold on Colorado’s exchange.