Open enrollment permanently extended in Colorado
In Colorado, open enrollment begins November 1 and ends January 15. This is longer than the open enrollment periods that most states are using through the Federal Marketplace. In most states, open enrollment ends December 15, but Colorado is one of three state-run exchanges that have permanently extended open enrollment.
If you enroll in a plan by December 15, your coverage will take effect on January 1. But people in Colorado will also be able to select a plan between December 16 and January 15 — with coverage effective February 1 — which is an option that’s not available to enrollees in most states. After January 15, Colorado residents will only be able to make changes to their 2020 coverage (or enroll for the first time) if they experience a qualifying event during the year.
So if you’re in Colorado, the crunch-time of open enrollment isn’t quite as crunched as it is in other states. But if you want your new coverage to take effect on January 1, you still need to decide quickly, as December 15 is your enrollment deadline. After that, you can still sign up, but your coverage won’t take effect until February (unless you’re losing other coverage on December 31, or getting married, as those are qualifying events that allow for different effective date rules).
Average rates decreasing (pay close attention to after-subsidy premiums!)
For 2020, all seven of Colorado exchange insurers will continue to offer plans, and Oscar will join the exchange in the Denver area. And thanks to Colorado’s new reinsurance program, insurers have proposed fairly substantial premium decreases across the state. Without reinsurance, premiums would have been fairly flat for 2020, but with reinsrance, the average proposed rate decrease is more than 18 percent.
The rate decreases vary by area and by insurer. And it’s important to keep in mind that rate decreases primarily affect people who don’t get premium subsidies (that’s about a quarter of Connect for Health Colorado enrollees, plus everyone who enrolls outside the exchange, directly through an insurance company).
For people who do get premium subsidies, the subsidies grow when premiums grow, and shrink when premiums decrease. So the lower overall average premiums in 2020 will result in smaller average premium subsidies as well (the federal government is passing the savings on to the state, so Colorado can use the money to fund its reinsurance program).
But premium subsidies don’t change based on the cost of each enrollee’s plan. Instead, they change based on the cost of the benchmark plan in each area. That’s the second-lowest-cost silver plan, which can be a different plan altogether from one year to the next. So while you can look at the rate change your insurer has proposed for your area, that only tells part of the story if you’re receiving premium subsidies. You have to keep in mind that if the benchmark premium changes by more than your plan’s premium, your net premium could change quite a bit for 2020.
All of this will be easier to visualize once plans become available for window shopping on Connect for Health Colorado this fall. But the take-away point is that enrollees need to pay close attention to their renewal notices and potential changes in their subsidy amount for next year. And we can help you make sense of it all.