Jan 23, 2023 - News

Colorado's public-option-styled insurance plan draws meager interest

Illustration of a stethoscope in the shape of a Colorado flag

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Colorado's new government-mandated health insurance plan enrolled 25,000 people in its first year, about 1 in 10 of those who shopped on the state's marketplace.

Why it matters: The Colorado Option, as it's known, is a cornerstone effort by Gov. Jared Polis and Democratic lawmakers to lower health care costs, and how the plan fares is drawing national attention.

Context: The state-governed insurance plans β€” which are required to offer certain benefits at a discounted price β€” were available to individuals and small groups shopping the online marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado.

By the numbers: Of the 192,000 people who purchased health insurance through the Connect for Health exchange by Jan. 10, 13% chose one of the state's plans.

  • Another 10,000 bought the policy through the state-subsidized OmniSalud program that helps people living in the country illegally buy insurance.

What they're saying: The governor and advocacy groups celebrated the sign-up rate, saying it surpassed original goals, even though the state never published an enrollment projection.

The other side: Critics, namely health insurance companies forced into the system, noted the vast majority of shoppers didn't select the government's plan β€” even though the state gave it priority in the online marketplace.

"I would say the numbers are a little bit higher than we expected," Meagan Fearing, the president of the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters, told the Colorado Sun. "But I would also say it's disappointing that we've gone through all of this for a fraction of our state's population."


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