Colorado Option promise of lower insurance rates not fulfilled

I’ve long avoided using the adage “You can’t have your cake and eat it too” because I don’t like cake – cake is everything a dessert should be – but there are a few other catchy ways to describe what happens when someone tries to achieve two mutually exclusive goals at the same time.

In this case, the state government is trying to lower health insurance premiums while increasing benefits. That doesn’t compute like anyone who’s ever taken a math class knows. Politicians in Colorado want to have their cake and eat it too.

In a month I will lose my health insurance plan because the insurer will leave the state and I will pay more in monthly premiums no matter which plan I choose. On average, insurance costs will rise 10.4% next year. Every year since 2019, Colorado legislators have passed new
coverage mandates that have increased the cost of premiums in the individual market from 5.5 to 7.9% per year.

I don’t need acupuncture, gender reassignment plastic surgery, HIV prevention drugs, or any of these new benefits, and yet I’m paying for the additional coverage. Lawmakers promised lower-premium insurance plans would be more widely available when they passed Colorado’s highly publicized option bill HB21-1232 last session. Health insurers in the individual and small group markets are required by law to offer a low-cost, standardized health benefit plan that meets the stipulations established by law and the state Insurance Commissioner. Plans must reduce their premiums by 5% in 2023, 2024 and 2025 for a total reduction of 15% from baseline.

Lawmakers were so sure of success that the Polis campaign touted the legislation as one of more than 100 ways the administration was saving Coloradans money. Turns out that’s not the case. The least expensive plans on the state health care exchange are not the Colorado Choice
plans, but rather plans designed by the carrier.

This is because Colorado Option plans require more “free” benefits like non-preventive primary care and mental health and substance abuse visits than traditional plans while requiring insurers to lower premiums. These are mutually exclusive goals as more
benefits require higher premiums to cover additional costs.

In addition to the coverage mandates, the government imposed various useless and intrusive requirements on insurers. Insurance companies must work to build “a network that is culturally responsive and, to the greatest extent possible, reflects the diversity of its members in terms of race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation in the area where the network exists.”

That means they must recruit medical providers based on their physical characteristics and sexual identities to match these providers to the insured population. Some employee will have to take care of this pointless exercise and that cost will be included in the premium.
Frankly, I don’t need a medical professional who looks like me; I am happy with a human partner who is good at his job.

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