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Health care group, Colorado disagree on message conveyed by canceled hearings

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(The Center Square) – Cancellation of hearings on Colorado’s public option health insurance plans indicate the program’s failing and would have wasted resources, a group critical of the plan argues.

However, Colorado’s Division of Insurance said the hearings were canceled because insurance companies and health care providers negotiated and reduced provider reimbursement rates to the maximum allowed under state statute.

“Because of this, the Division’s requested relief was achieved, and therefore the need for an adjudicatory hearing was no longer required,” Vincent Plymell, assistant commissioner for communications for the Division of Insurance, said in an email to The Center Square.

The Colorado Division of Insurance’s website stated all public hearings on 2024 rate reductions for both individual and small group Colorado Options were canceled. There will be public comment hearings on premium reductions for small group Colorado Option plans on July 6 and for the individual Colorado Option on July 7.

“The decision to cancel the Colorado Public Option hearings is yet another clear indicator that the Colorado Option law is failing,” Colorado’s Healthcare Future, which is backed by health care industry groups, said in a statement.

Michael Conway, Colorado’s commissioner of insurance, ordered cancellation of hearings regarding premium rate reductions for standardized individual market health plans for 2024, according to the website. The public comment hearings were canceled for insurance providers Cigna, Kaiser, HMO Colorado, Inc (Anthem) and Rocky Mountain HMO. The meetings were scheduled to take place throughout June. All hearings from small group plans also were canceled.

Colorado’s Health Care Future and its parent organization, Partnership for America’s Health Care Future Action, are critical of public options and on-size-fits-all health care. The organization’s website state an aim of working with multiple stakeholders in health care to lower costs, protect patient choice, expand access, improve quality and foster innovation.

The Colorado organization stated the hearings wouldn’t reduce costs or health insurance premiums due to flaws in Colorado’s mandates. It said insurers and providers have already achieved the statutory minimum reimbursement rates independent of the law.

Colorado’s Health Care Future said the cancellation of hearings is proof the state wants to avoid many concerns.

“It’s not necessarily surprising that the Division of Insurance and the State of Colorado ultimately preferred to avoid a series of public hearings that would repeatedly confirm these facts,” the group stated.

Plymell said the public hearing process led to the statute’s goal, lowering provider reimbursement rates to the maximum allowable under state law.

“Insurance companies and hospitals are working together to lower the costs of providing care, which will save consumers money on their health insurance premiums,” Plymell said. “So far, this year’s public hearing process has shown us that the hearings are an effective tool to get companies and health care providers to negotiate lower reimbursement rates. By lowering reimbursement rates with providers, companies can pass these savings down to consumers in the form of premium reductions.”

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