- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2016

More than 92,000 Coloradans will lose their Obamacare health care coverage in 2017 as four leading insurance companies scale back or eliminate their plans while others propose rate hikes of as much as 40 percent.

Insurance holders with individual plans through Anthem, UnitedHealthCare, Humana and Rocky Mountain Health Plans will need to find new coverage for the 2017 coverage year, according to a Monday statement from the Colorado Division of Insurance.

Insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar described the upheaval as part of the “stabilization phase” as the state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, enters its fourth enrollment year.

“Companies are still figuring it out — where to sell, how to sell, how to price — which is why we’re seeing some companies pull back on individual plans or requesting significant increases, while still other companies are coming into the market,” Ms. Salazar said. “Some companies have done a better job of figuring out how to operate in this new environment and compete for people’s business, while others must step back and reevaluate their approach.”

Still, the news came as a devastating blow to the state’s already-shaky insurance market. Colorado is one of 14 states that opted to launch its own Obamacare exchange instead of depending on the federal version after the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Cory Gardner, Colorado Republican, said in a Monday statement that “it’s time for the president to admit Obamacare is a disaster for the American people.”

“When the president rammed his partisan health care law through Congress, he repeatedly promised the American people ‘if you like your plan, you can keep it,’” Mr. Gardner said. “President Obama and those that supported this partisan law are now silent as 92,000 Coloradans must find a new insurance plan.”

More than 62,000 insured residents will lose their coverage as a result of Anthem’s decision to drop its PPO individual plans in 2017. The company will still offer HMO plans, according to the division.

United and Humana had announced last month that they would no longer offer individual plans on the state exchange, while Rocky Mountain plans to offer its insurance plans only in Mesa County.

Most of those remaining on the exchange are asking the board to approve steep price increases. One health care provider, Golden Rule, is seeking a 40.6 percent rate hike while Rocky Mountain HMO wants to raise its rates by 34.6 percent and Colorado Choice is asking for a 36.3 percent jump.

Among the reasons for the rate hikes is that “the companies have indicated that the people enrolled in individual plans have used more healthcare services and with greater frequency than expected,” said Ms. Salazar.

Jonathan Lockwood, executive director of the free-market group Advancing Colorado, said the latest round of cutbacks and rate hikes comes as more evidence that Obamacare is failing in Colorado.

“Coloradans get sucker-punched harder year after year by skyrocketing health care costs that we were promised would come to an end under Obamacare,” Mr. Lockwood said in a statement.

About 450,000 residents have individual health insurance through the state exchange, meaning that about 20 percent will be affected by the elimination and reduction of coverage plans.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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