Colorado Health Insurance

Updated on: November 13th, 2020

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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. Eight 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. 

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Health insurance options in Colorado

Colorado health insurance costs will decrease in 2020. In October 2019, the state announced that rates would fall by an average of 20% in 2020.2 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. 

One thing to note is that short-term insurance plans are not an option in Colorado. Recent regulations affected short-term policies, causing insurers to cease operations in the state.4

Check a 2020 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 runs from November 1, 2020 through December 15, 2020.

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 lasts from November 1, 2020 through December 15, 2020. If you miss 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.

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:

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

Average Lowest-Cost201820192020
Bronze Premium$389$363$280
Silver Premium$446$475$353
Gold Premium$540$495$385

Subsidies

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 155,000 Coloradans received healthcare subsidies in 2019 alone.9

In 2019, the average premium tax credit, or subsidy was $541 in Colorado.10 In 2019, 79% of Coloradans received the tax credit, while just 74% received it in 2018.11 

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: 

COBRA

You can maintain your previous employer’s health insurance policy through the Consolidated Omnibus 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’re responsible for 100% of the plan’s premiums, 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 1.1 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 Size133% of the Poverty Guideline
1$16,970.80
2$22,929.20
3$28,888.93
4$34,846

Child Health Plan+

The Child Health Plan Plus 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 18 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 November 2019, 78,338 residents had enrolled in Colorado’s CHIP.17

Medicare 

As of 2018, almost 900,000 Colorado residents enrolled in Medicare. About two thirds signed up for Original Medicare while the remaining third chose Medicare Advantage.18

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. 

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  1. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population.” kff.org (accessed February 9, 2020); U.S. Census Bureau. “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States.” census.gov (accessed February 9, 2020).

  2. Miller, Blair. “Colorado Announces 20% Average Reduction Across Individual Health Insurance Premiums for 2020.” thedenverchannel.com (accessed February 9, 2020).

  3. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. “Colorado Medicaid Expansion.” colorado.gov (accessed February 28, 2020).

  4. Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. “Updated Regulation to Govern Short-term Health Plans in Colorado.” colorado.gov (accessed February 9, 2020).

  5. Connect for Health Colorado. “Colorado’s Official Health Insurance Marketplace.” connectforhealthco.com (accessed February 9, 2020).

  6. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Average Marketplace premiums By Metal Tier.” kff.org (accessed February 9, 2020).

  7. ACA Sign Ups. “Colorado: *Approved* avg. 2021 #ACA premiums: -1.4% indy mkt, 3.8% sm. group.” acasignups.net (accessed October 26, 2020).

  8. Average Marketplace Premiums by Metal Tier.”

  9. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Estimated Total Premium Tax Credits Received By Marketplace Enrollees.” kff.org (accessed February 9, 2020).

  10. Estimated Total Premium Tax Credits Received By Marketplace Enrollees.”

  11. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Marketplace Effectuated Enrollment and Financial Assistance.” kff.org (accessed March 1, 2020).

  12. Colorado Division of Human Resources. “COBRA.” Colorado.gov (accessed February 9, 2020).

  13. Colorado Health Institute. “2019 Colorado Health Access Survey: Progress in Peril.” coloradohealthinstitute.org (accessed February 9, 2020).

  14. U.S. Government Website for Medicaid. “November 2019 Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment Data Highlights.” medicaid.gov (accessed March 1, 2020)

  15. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing. “Health First Colorado.” colorado.gov (accessed February 9, 2020).

  16. Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing. “Child Health Plan Plus.” colorado.gov (accessed February 9, 2020).

  17. U.S. Government Website for Medicaid. “November 2019 Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment Data Highlights.” medicaid.gov (accessed March 1, 2020).

  18. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Total Number of Medicare Beneficiaries.” kff.org (accessed March 1, 2020).

  19. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Distribution of Medicare Benefits By Eligibility Criteria.” kff.org (accessed March 1, 2020).

  20. U.S. Department for Health & Human Services. “Who Is Eligible for Medicare?” hhs.gov (accessed February 9, 2020).

  21. Who Is Eligible for Medicare?

  22. Kaiser Family Foundation. “Medicare Prescription Drug Plans: Standalone PDP Enrollment.” kff.org (accessed March 1, 2020).