I have long avoided using the saying “You can’t have your cake and eat it” because I don’t like cake – cake is all dessert should be – but there are a few other catchy ways to describe what happens when someone trying 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. It doesn’t calculate, as anyone who has taken math classes knows. Politicians in Colorado also want to get their pie and eat it.
In a month, I will lose my health plan because the carrier leaves the state and I will pay more in monthly premiums no matter which plan I choose. On average, insurance costs will increase by 10.4% next year. Every year since 2019, Colorado lawmakers pass new
coverage mandates, which increased the value of individual market premiums from 5.5% to 7.9% per annum.
I don’t need acupuncture, sex reassignment surgery, HIV prevention drugs, or any of these new benefits, and I still pay for the extra coverage. Lawmakers promised that insurance plans with lower premiums would be more affordable when they passed the highly publicized Colorado Options Bill HB21-1232 last session. The law requires health insurers in individual and small group markets to offer a low-cost standardized health plan that complies with regulations established by law and the State Insurance Commissioner. Plans must reduce their premiums by 5% in 2023, 2024 and 2025 for an overall reduction of 15% from baseline.
Legislators were so confident of success that Polis’ campaign touted the law as one of more than 100 ways the administration is saving Colorados money. It turns out that this is not the case. The cheapest plans on the state health exchange are not Colorado options.
plans, but rather plans for an aircraft carrier.
This is because Colorado Option plans require more “free” benefits, such as non-preventive primary care and mental health and substance abuse visits, than traditional plans, while at the same time requiring insurers to lower premiums. These are mutually exclusive goals, since more
benefits require higher premiums to cover additional costs.
In addition to coverage mandates, the government has imposed several nonsensical and intrusive demands on insurers. Insurance companies should work to create “a network that is culturally sensitive and, to the 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.”
This means that they must hire health care providers based on their physical characteristics and sexual identity so that these providers are appropriate for the insured population. Someone from the staff will have to entrust this pointless task, and this cost will be included in the bonus.
To be honest, I don’t need a medical professional like me; I am happy with a person who is good at his job.
Insurers are also forced to report whether providers in their networks have received anti-bias training, as if the insurance company were an accreditation agency responsible for monitoring ongoing training sessions. If the awakened fairy does not pay the lucky person who is tasked with counting these beans, the extra cost is borne by the one who pays the surcharge.
The imposition of new mandates on insurance companies and price controls did not lead to the savings promised by politicians. However, this has made it harder for insurance companies to remain viable in this state. My insurance company Bright Health and another one, Oscar Health, are leaving, and more than 58,000 of us are looking for a new carrier.
As a writer and adjunct professor whose income fluctuates from month to month, I need a low premium, high deductible plan with no additional perks that I don’t need and can’t afford. Will the legislature admit its mistakes in the coming session and give us self-employed Colorados a breather? Or just say let them eat cake?
Christa L. Kafer is a columnist for the weekly Denver Post. Follow her on Twitter: @kristakafer
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