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Health insurance premiums stable as open enrollment approaches

DENVER – For the first time in 3 years, premiums on Colorado’s health insurance exchange are relatively stable. Data released by the Colorado Division of Insurance show that premiums for Affordable Care Act plans both on and off the exchange are going up by an average of 5.6 percent in 2019. Last year, that same average price rose by 32 percent.

The stability is no accident said professor Craig Konnoth of the University of Colorado.

“The Trump administration last year tried to take various steps to undermine the ACA and the courts and others have stepped in and stopped that. And so, we’re beginning to see some stabilization because of that largely.”

A majority of people who are insured through plans sold on the Connect for Health Colorado exchange qualify for subsidies to help lower the cost of monthly premiums. The Advance Premium Tax Credit (APTC) is a credit that consumers can claim prior to filing their annual income taxes. The funds are applied to the health plan thereby lowering monthly premiums.

The income limit is set at four times the Federal Poverty Level meaning a typical family of four would qualify as long as they earn less than $100,400 a year.

With the subsidies included, the average monthly payment drops statewide by 24 percent. In Colorado Springs, it’s a 20 percent decrease and in Pueblo, it’s 5 percent.

Yet a significant change in the Affordable Care Act itself could impact the price of health plans in the future.  As part of the tax cut bill passed last December, Congress ended the Individual Mandate which required Americans to either buy insurance or pay a fine.

We asked professor Konnoth if he thought by removing that stick, that more people might leave the exchanges.

“It doesn’t look like it,” he said. “Frankly, people seem to want to get the subsidies to make sure that they and their families are covered. And so the carrot seems to be working extremely well.”

He said estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office suggest premiums for plans sold on the exchange might rise by about 10 percent because of a shrinking insurance pool.

Konnoth thinks a bigger threat to Obamacare is playing out right now in a courtroom in Texas.

“A judge right now in Texas is trying to decide whether to strike down the whole Affordable Care Act because the Individual Mandate is gone. Or whether to keep the law in place.”

Previous lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act were defeated because the Supreme Court ruled that the Individual Mandate could be interpreted as a tax.

The open enrollment window closes December 15th. The Colorado Division of Insurance holds consumer quarterly forums to educate the public on various topics. The next forum will be held on October 26 at 10:00 at the State Capitol and will focus on the new ACA health insurance plans and premium costs.

Andy Koen

Andy Koen

Andy is a reporter and anchor for KOAA-TV News 5. He joined the team in 2003.
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