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Tracking effectiveness of Colorado’s Public Option health coverage

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) Colorado's standardized health-insurance plan, known as the Colorado Option, is changing how consumers interact with insurance, according to a new report tracking the plan's development since 2013. Today, an increasing number of Coloradans are choosing the plan, largely because of its value. 

Erica Pike, director of policy and government relations for the Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, explained many insurance plans offered after the Affordable Care Act was rolled out in Colorado did not cover comprehensive preventive services, which frustrated doctors.

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"And so, looking for a way to incentivize and design a plan that centered primary care was something that we were really hopeful for," she said. 

After lawmakers passed House Bill 1232 in 2021, the Colorado Option was developed with extensive input from consumers, insurers, health providers, rural communities and other stakeholders. In addition to offering preventive care, other primary goals for the new plan were to make insurance easier to understand and more affordable, and to improve health outcomes for historically disadvantaged communities.

Jen is a consumer with diabetes who was cited in the report compiled by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. She said choosing a Colorado Option plan made the most sense, in part because Continuous Glucose Monitoring coverage was available with a zero-dollar co-pay in the schedule of required benefits.

"It covered the most prescriptions, and did not require step therapy for Ozempic. And it indicated that I would probably, with prior authorization, be able to stay on the insulins I was on," she said. 

This year, more than 93,000 Coloradans enrolled in Colorado Option plans, more than doubling last year's enrollment and representing more than a third of all enrollments through Connect for Health Colorado. More insurers are also offering plans, providing much-needed competition in 12 counties. 

The Colorado Division of Insurance is scheduled to hold public hearings on the plans later this year if insurers do not meet premium reduction targets, and will evaluate the plan's progress in both affordability and health equity in 2026.