DENVER – Nearly 200,000 Coloradans signed up for health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado during the open enrollment period that ended Jan. 15 – the highest ever total for the program during open enrollment.
In total, 198,412 people signed up for a plan through Colorado’s marketplace, more than 10% above the number of people who signed up over that period last year.
It is also close to the 226,680 people who signed up for a plan through Connect for Health Colorado (C4HCO) in all of 2021, which included extra enrollment periods because of the pandemic and after the implementation of the federal American Rescue Plan.
In a news conference Tuesday, the C4HCO CEO, Colorado insurance commissioner, and Colorado’s two U.S. senators all pointed to premium tax credits passed as part of the American Rescue Plan signed last March as reason for why both costs were lower this year and why more Coloradans signed up for health insurance through the marketplace.
Connect for Health Colorado said three-quarters of people who signed up for plans received savings because of the tax credits to the tune of an average of 52% savings.
The tax credits are based off a person or household’s income and vary depending on where they are on the Federal Poverty Level scale. The state contracted with a consulting group last October to look at how the premium subsidies are affecting Colorado in 2021 and 2022 when they are available.
For these two years, people who are over 400% of the Federal Poverty Level are eligible for the subsidies, but that will go away in 2023 if Congress does not extend them.
Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators, both said they hoped to extend the premium subsidies.
Bennet said he wanted to extend them at least to 2025 but wants to make them permanent, he said, while Hickenlooper agreed, with both noting how much they have driven down prices for people buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act.
Bennet said he believes the odds are high, even in the face of Republican opposition, that Congress can get an extension done either temporarily or permanently – though he added that he was not quite sure how it would get done.
Hickenlooper said he had anecdotally spoken with some Republican senators who might be able to be swayed because of how the drop in cost has affected their states, but also noted along with Bennet that Republicans are currently opposed to any sort of tax hike, which could become a sticking point for them if talks progress. Bennet said he wanted to undo the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy to pay for an extension.
Colorado Insurance Commissioner Mike Conway called the premium subsidies a “game changer” and said they have boosted enrollment both in Colorado and across the country.
Despite the open enrollment period being over, there is still time for people affected by the Marshall Fire or by COVID-19 who were unable to sign up during open enrollment to do so through the Disaster Relief Special Enrollment Period through March 16. People with a qualifying event can also apply during a 60-day Special Enrollment Period.