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Colorado’s 2015 Premiums: Up, Down And Holding The Line

Health insurance companies in Colorado are starting to talk about their proposed premiums for 2015. State regulators on Monday released the draft prices, which the state now has 60 days to approve or deny.

Carriers generally aren’t proposing big changes in premiums for 2015, nothing that’s dramatically out of line with trends of the last several years.

“Most of the premiums are falling in a range of anything from a 10 percent decrease to a 10 percent increase. That’s where the bulk of them are sitting right now,” said Vincent Plymel, a spokesman for Colorado’s Division of Insurance.

While the proposed rates are public, they are not easy to compare to 2014 rates.  Consumer advocates are digging into the data and analyzing trends. Most insurers are also talking publicly about their proposed prices.

Colorado’s dominant carrier, Kaiser Permanente, is asking for about a 7 percent premium increase, according to consumer advocates.

“Our goal is to keep rate increases to a minimum,” a statement from the company reads. Kaiser Permanente covers about a quarter of everyone with private insurance in Colorado. (Kaiser Health News is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

It also won nearly half of the new market created by the Affordable Care Act in 2014. More than 127,000 Coloradans bought policies through the state’s new ACA marketplace, about 75,000 of them using subsidies.

“We believe the past year has shown that Coloradans have embraced our model of providing affordable top-notch care and coverage,” the statement reads.

United Healthcare, which holds about 18 percent of the market, declined interview requests on 2015 rates. Consumer advocates said changes to United’s premiums, if any, are not yet clear.

Anthem, third among the three big players in Colorado with 13 percent of individual and small group policies, says it is lowering its premiums by an average of 5 percent.

Steve ErkenBrack, CEO of Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Health Plans, says his company kept its premiums basically flat. It’s still too early to say how big changes, including a lot more people with health coverage, under the ACA are or aren’t affecting premiums, he says.

“We know who the (insured) population is in 2014, but do we know how they will utilize care? No,” says ErkenBrack.

The newly insured population contains at least some people who were denied coverage before, because of pre-existing conditions. Insurers are still learning how much care is used by people who were shut out of the market before.

“In terms of making sure you don’t have unusual fluctuations, you’d probably want a year-and-a-half to two years of data,” ErkenBrack says.

But Julia Hutchins, CEO of the new Colorado Health-Op insurance plan said they adjusted their rates, “down by 10% on average,” based on what information is available about the newly insured.

“Estimates, although early, suggest that the cost (of covering the newly-insured) is not has high as we estimated last year. And so we were able to take advantage of that new data in setting our rates for 2015,” Hutchins said.

This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes NPR and Kasier Health News.