With its gorgeous mountain scenery and world-class skiing facilities, Colorado is a popular place to live.
More than half of Colorado residents get their health insurance through their employers. Nearly 8 percent of the population is uninsured, which is close to the national average.1
If you’re one of the millions who are uninsured, here’s what you need to know about your options.
Health insurance options in Colorado
Colorado health insurance costs decreased in 2020 and will remain low in 2021. In October 2019, the state announced that rates for healthcare plans on the state exchange would fall by an average of 20% in 2020. A year later it announced that low rate would dip even further (a drop of 1.4 percent in 2021 compared to 2020), despite the economic upheaval brought about by the pandemic.2 For many, the rate reductions were significant. And, if you qualify for subsidies, your premiums can be even lower, making insurance more affordable.
In January 2014, Colorado expanded Medicaid coverage through the Affordable Care Act, including more adults and former foster children up to the age of 26. Thanks to the expansion, more than 400,000 Coloradans were covered.3
In Colorado, your healthcare coverage options are dependent on your age, employment status, and income.
Check a 2021 subsidy chart and calculator to see which subsidies you might qualify for.
What You Need to Know
Colorado residents can sign up for individual or family coverage through Connect for Health Colorado.
The 2021 Open Enrollment Period ran from November 1, 2020, through December 15, 2020 (for coverage that began January 1, 2021) and through January 15, 2021 (for coverage that began February 1, 2021). The next open enrollment period begins November 1, 2021, for coverage starting in 2022.
The state has also opened a special “Uninsured Enrollment” period running February 8 through May 15, 2021, for Coloradans who are uninsured, who recently lost insurance, or who expect to lose it soon. Those eligible can sign up and get health insurance that starts the first day of the month following their plan selection.
Short-term health insurance isn’t an option to bridge a coverage gap. Due to state-mandated requirements, no carrier offers plan in Colorado.
Individual health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act
If you’re ineligible for insurance through an employer, you can get health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado — Colorado’s version of healthcare.gov.5 Bronze, Silver, and Platinum health plans offer cover preventative service including doctor visits, hospitalizations, and mental health care.
You can only sign up for health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado during the 2021 Open Enrollment Period, which lasted from November 1, 2020 through January 15, 2021. If you missed enrollment, you may be able to sign up for a plan if you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. For example, if you lose your job, get married, or have a baby, you can apply for a plan outside of the Open Enrollment window.
Colorado reopened its exchange for sign-ups from February 8, 2021 through May 15, 2021 following a similar move by the federal government to do so for federal Marketplaces.
You can shop online and compare plans at connectforhealthco.com.
A Quick Note
No matter what your family size, income, or employment status is, there are several health insurance options available to you in Colorado.
Companies who offer health insurance
For 2021, eight health insurance companies offer individual insurance on the state exchange while one company has an off-exchange option.
The companies are:
- Anthem (HMO Colorado, Inc.)
- Anthem (Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc., off exchange only)
- Bright Health
- Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company
- Denver Health Medical Plan, Inc.
- Friday Health Plans
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado
- Oscar Health Plan
- Rocky Mountain Health Plans
Health insurance costs
Health insurance costs dropped in 2020. The cost of the lowest-level silver plan cost $353 per month in 2020, on average — that’s down from $475 per month in 2019.6
For 2021, the state approved a 1.42% drop in premiums for the average unsubsidized premium, or $7 less a month.7
Average Marketplace Premiums by Metal Tier
In Colorado, the average premiums for each tier for 2018 to 2020 are as follows:8
If you don’t make much money, you may consider applying for an insurance policy through Connect for Health Colorado. Low-income individuals can qualify for subsidies that make insurance more affordable. Over 111,000 Coloradans received healthcare subsidies in 2019 and 2020 alone.9
If you’re self-employed
If you’re self-employed, your best option is to sign up for an insurance plan through Connect for Health Colorado. You can qualify for a policy even if you have a preexisting condition, and you may be eligible for a subsidy that reduces the cost of your premiums.
If you’re unemployed
If you leave your job or are laid off, you have two main options for health insurance:
You can maintain your previous employer’s health insurance policy through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). With COBRA, you can keep your coverage for up to 18 months, giving you plenty of time to find a job and other insurance options. However, you may be responsible for paying for the entire plan, up to 102% of the premium, which can be costly.12
If you’re low-income
If you are struggling to make ends meet, health insurance may seem like an unaffordable luxury. But skipping coverage can be a costly mistake. According to the Colorado Health Institute, 18.1% of Coloradans struggled to pay medical bills, and over 30% faced an unexpected medical bill in the past year.13
There are a few options available to give you health insurance coverage at a lower cost:
Government-funded health insurance
Low-income residents in Colorado may qualify for the following programs:
Health First Colorado
Health First Colorado is Colorado’s Medicaid program. Eligible people can qualify for free or low-cost coverage and get preventative care, dental care, emergency services and transportation, prescription coverage, and more.
Over 1.3 million people in Colorado are enrolled in Medicaid.14
You may qualify for Health First Colorado if you’re a parent or an adult without dependent children with a household income that doesn’t exceed 133% of the federal poverty line (FPL).15 As of 2020, your income must be below:
|Family Size||133% of the Poverty Guideline|
Child Health Plan+
The Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) is a low-cost health program for some children and pregnant women. If you make too much to qualify for Health First Colorado, but can’t afford private health insurance, Child Health Plan Plus can be a useful alternative.
To be eligible, you must meet the following criteria:16
- You must be a child under 19 or a pregnant woman age 19 or over
- Your income can’t exceed 260% of the FPL
- You must be lawfully residing within the state
- You must not qualify for other health insurance
As of August 2020, 76,114 residents had enrolled in Colorado’s CHIP.17
While Medicare is usually for older people, you may qualify for Medicare if you have been entitled to Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board disability benefits for the past 24 months. Or, you have Lou Gehrig’s disease or are a kidney dialysis or kidney transplant patient.
Almost nine in 10 residents qualified for Medicare because they turned 65; the rest were eligible because they had a disability.19
With Medicare, hospital care lab tests, surgeries, and prescription drug coverage is provided.20
Once you’re 65 or older, you’re eligible for Medicare. If you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for 10 years or more, you’re eligible for premium-free Medicare Part A. In other words, you can enjoy health insurance without worrying about expensive monthly premiums.
If you don’t meet the criteria for premium-free Medicare Part A, you may be able to buy into the system. Use the Medicare Eligibility Calculator to see if you qualify for Medicare and to estimate what your premiums would be.21
There are different terms regarding Medicare you should know:
- Medicare Part A: Medicare Part A covers inpatient care in a hospital, skilled care in a nursing care facility, hospice care, and home health care.
- Medicare Part B: Medicare Part B covers medically necessary services and preventative services, including ambulance services, mental health inpatient or outpatient care, and medical equipment.
- Medicare Advantage Plans: Medicare Advantage Plans — sometimes referred to as Medicare Part C — are offered by private companies approved by Medicare. Medicare Advantage Plans provide all of your Part A and Part B coverage and may provide additional benefits like vision, dental, and health and wellness coverage.
- Medicare Part D: Medicare Part D is an optional benefit you can add to Medicare for prescription drug coverage. In Colorado, 336,858 people enrolled in standalone Medicare prescription drug plans.22
- Medicare Supplement Insurance: Medicare Supplement Insurance — also known as Medigap — is sold by private insurance companies. A Medigap policy covers some of the costs not covered by Original Medicare, such as copayments or your deductibles.
Medicare Savings Program
In Colorado, you may be able to get some help with your Medicare premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance if you can’t afford them. People with limited income and resources may qualify for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP). To be eligible, you must meet monthly income limits and have limited assets. For more information and to apply, visit the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing website.
Applying for health insurance in Colorado
No matter what your family size, income, or employment status is, there are several health insurance options available to you in Colorado. By exploring your options, you can find an affordable plan that works for your needs and gives you essential protection.