Colorado Option to Lower Premiums, Increase Access to Care

Republicans refuse to support plan to reduce premiums by 18 percent and create new health insurance option for consumers

DENVER, CO– The House Health and Insurance Committee today passed HB21-1232, the Colorado Health Insurance Option by a vote of 8-5. Sponsors of the bill reached a deal yesterday on amendments that have brought various industry partners to a neutral position on the legislation. The bill would significantly lower premiums on the individual and small group markets and create a new option for consumers to save Coloradans money and increase access to health care.

“Relief is on the way for Coloradans who are paying way too much for their health care,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon. “The agreement we reached with some of the largest parts of the health care industry does exactly what Coloradans need and what we set out to do–create a new health insurance option for consumers and save them money. We brought everyone to the table to put Coloradans first and deliver results. Small businesses and people across our state have told legislators time and time again that they need an affordable health care option, and soon they will have it.”

“Race disparities in health outcomes are directly related to the fact that communities of color face higher uninsured rates and as a result have less access to the care they need,” said Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora. “Too many people in Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities go without essential health care or skip prescriptions because they can’t afford them, they don’t have insurance or their insurance doesn’t cover it. The time to act is now. This bill will give uninsured Coloradans and those suffering from unaffordable premiums a new, lower cost insurance plan that covers the care they need.” 

Before the pandemic, 20 percent of Coloradans struggled to afford the cost of health care or went without care because they couldn’t afford it. One in six Colorado counties has only one health insurance carrier on the individual market. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed gaps in the state’s health system and exacerbated existing inequities that have only made it harder for Coloradans to access affordable care. 

HB21-1232 will bring more affordable health insurance options to Coloradans in the individual and small group market. This proposal provides the health care industry an opportunity to work collaboratively to reduce their premiums, and allows them to innovate and figure out how to do that. Health insurance carriers would be required to bring premiums down by 18 percent over three years.

The bill requires health insurance carriers to offer a standardized health plan, meaning Colorado consumers will have a new insurance option that covers the services they need at a lower cost. The standardized plan must address historical health inequities, and it will lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers. The plan would be offered in both the small group and individual markets, increasing access and affordability for small businesses who choose to offer a health benefit. The proposal ensures industry participation and accountability by creating Colorado’s first Insurance Consumer Ombudsman and public hearing process to ensure affordability and access targets are met. 

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