Out of the states that adopted Obamacare from the start and chose to establish their own state-based health insurance exchanges, Colorado was one of the forerunners. The Centennial State was already making strong progress in healthcare and reforms, and took up Obamacare to further its position as one of the leaders in healthcare.
Other than taking the lead to establish a state exchange, Colorado also participated in the Medicaid expansion to cover people up to 133 percent of federal poverty line. Currently, available numbers show that Colorado has made strong progress on reducing the number of uninsured in the state. The state has cut the number of uninsured by 6 percentage points since 2013.
Other than this decrease, several low-income groups without children are now eligible under the wider Medicaid coverage. Connect for Health Colorado, the state exchange of the state, has enrolled about 140,000 people under the law and the premium increases for 2015 should be marginal at roughly 3 percent.
For a state like Colorado, this progress is laudable.
Back in 2005, the condition of health insurance coverage in the state was lacking. Colorado had about 785,000 people without health insurance, which is 17 percent of the state’s population. Women were liable to pay higher premiums for the same coverage as men. In fact, non-smoking women paid higher premiums than men who smoked, demonstrating a grave gender inequality in health coverage. The premiums were more than 50 percent of men’s in some cases. Adults with preexisting conditions got health insurance at unaffordable prices, if not altogether denied. Medicaid was not wide enough to cover several groups, especially low-income adults without dependent children.
With that background, Colorado knew that it had to make plans for improving the healthcare system. Before Obamacare was passed, Colorado executed some bold moves that brought it closer to improved healthcare. In 2006, the state established a blue ribbon commission with the sole purpose of improving the state’s healthcare system. Until that point, insurance companies were not subject to any kind of scrutiny on their plans as Colorado was a ‘file and use’ state. In 2008, a law was passed to weigh the insurance premium increases to offset any incorrect increases and control healthcare costs. The move helped the state cut unwarranted insurance premium increases by eliminating the majority of proposed premium increases. On the same grounds, in 2009, the stakeholders of the state’s healthcare system came together to affect the largest expansion of Medicaid eligibility in state’s history by finding funding for the expansion. Hospitals, policy makers, and the government worked together on this endeavor.
Once Obamacare kicked in, it was a different story altogether. The collective efforts of Colorado and the PPACA brought the state on the verge of a sustainable, ,much improved healthcare system that seemed to be a dream in 2005. Coupled with Obamacare’s strengths, Colorado’s preemptive strategies and cooperation among lawmakers, policy designers, administrators, hospitals and other stakeholders, the progress made by the state in quality healthcare was significant.
For instance, the number of people with no insurance was 17 percent of the state’s population in 2013. By 2014, post-state exchange implementation, that number is down to 11 percent. Colorado has demonstrated the same trend as the nation, with the national uninsured rate dropping to 13.5 percent from 18 percent. The state ranks 14th in terms of number of people uninsured, beating the likes of Texas and Mississippi. Colorado also ranks 5th for percentage point drop in the rate of uninsured, calculated at 6 percentage points while the national average is 4 percentage points for states which decided to expand Medicaid and setup their own exchange.
From 2005 to 2014, Colorado’s healthcare system has come a long way in a span of nine years. Other than the platform provided by ACA for reforming the healthcare system, Colorado’s own endeavors and cooperation among stakeholders has improved quality, access, and affordability of healthcare. For other states, Colorado is a strong example that shows the kind of results that can be delivered by the right intent coupled with a platform like ACA.