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Colorado Health Insurance Consumer Guide
This guide is designed to help you understand the health coverage options and possible financial assistance available to you and your family in Colorado.
Colorado created its own state-run health insurance exchange (Marketplace), called Connect for Health Colorado. This platform allows residents to shop for individual and family health plans offered by various private health insurance carriers. As of March 2023, more than 180,000 people were enrolled in private health plans through Colorado’s state-run exchange.1
The Colorado Option debuted in 2023, bringing standardized plans and lower-cost coverage options to the state’s market.
Dental coverage in Colorado
Want to improve your smile and save some money when you visit the dentist? Our guide explains dental coverage options in Colorado.
Health First Colorado: Colorado’s Medicaid program
Health First Colorado is Colorado’s Medicaid program. Together with Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), it covers 1.7 million people.2
Medicare enrollment in Colorado
More than 1 million Colorado residents were enrolled in Medicare as of May 2023. 3 Our Colorado Medicare guide explains the various parts of Medicare, coverage options under Medicare Advantage and Part D, and Colorado regulations regarding Medigap (Medicare Supplement) availability.
Short-term coverage in Colorado
Colorado tightened its rules for short-term health plans in 2019.4 The result was that insurers opted to stop selling short-term policies in the state. So although short-term health plans are technically allowed in Colorado, none have been for sale in the state for several years.
Frequently asked questions about health insurance in Colorado
Who can buy Marketplace health insurance in Colorado?
In order to sign up for private health coverage through Connect for Health Colorado, you must:5
- Be a resident of Colorado
- Not be incarcerated
- Not be enrolled in Medicare
- Be lawfully present in the United States. (Colorado has created a separate platform that undocumented residents can use to enroll in state-subsidized health coverage.)6
So most Colorado residents are eligible to enroll in coverage through the exchange. But a bigger question for most people is financial assistance, and a few additional parameters must be met in order to qualify for subsidies through Connect for Health Colorado.
- Not have access to affordable employer-sponsored health coverage. If you have access to an employer’s plan and aren’t sure whether it’s considered affordable, you can use our Employer Health Plan Affordability Calculator to see if you might qualify for premium subsidies via Connect for Health Colorado.
- Not be eligible for Health First Colorado (Colorado Medicaid) or Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).8
Beyond those basic parameters, qualifying for subsidies through Connect for Health Colorado depends on how much your household earns and how that compares with the cost of the second-lowest-cost Silver plan in your area – which will depend on your age and location.
When can I enroll in an ACA-compliant plan in Colorado?
Colorado’s open enrollment period begins November 1 and continues through January 15, giving Colorado residents an opportunity to select a health plan for the coming year. This enrollment window is applicable for plans obtained through the exchange, OmniSalud, and directly from insurers (No subsidies are available for plans obtained directly from insurers.)
For coverage to take effect on January 1, your application needs to be completed by December 15. If you enroll between December 16 and January 15, your new coverage will take effect on February 1.9
Outside of the annual open enrollment period, you may be eligible to enroll or make a plan change if you experience a qualifying life event, such as giving birth or losing other health coverage.
As of 2024, Colorado will join several other states that consider pregnancy to be a qualifying event.10 This will allow uninsured pregnant women the opportunity to enroll in health coverage without having to wait until the baby is born.
Some people can enroll year-round even without a specific qualifying life event.
Enrollment in Health First Colorado (Medicaid) and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) is available year-round.11
How do I enroll in a Colorado Marketplace plan?
To enroll in an ACA Marketplace/exchange plan in Colorado, you can:
- Visit Connect for Health Colorado, which is Colorado’s health insurance Marketplace. This online platform will allow you to compare available health plans, determine whether you’re eligible for financial assistance, and enroll in coverage, either during open enrollment or during a special enrollment period.
- Enroll in a Connect for Health Colorado plan with the help of an insurance broker or certified enrollment assister. 12
You can reach Connect for Health Colorado’s call center at 855-752-6749 (TTY line: 855-346-3432)
How can I find affordable health insurance in Colorado?
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), income-based subsidies (APTC) are available to lower the amount you pay for your health coverage each month. These subsidies are available to enrollees who meet the eligibility requirements and select a health plan through Connect for Health Colorado.
Nearly three-quarters of Connect for Health Colorado’s enrollees were receiving premium subsidies as of early 2023. These subsidies averaged $404/month, and reduced the average enrollee’s premium to about $143/month.13
If your household’s income doesn’t exceed 250% of the federal poverty level, you’ll also be eligible for federal cost-sharing reductions (CSR), which will reduce your deductible and other out-of-pocket expenses as long as you select a Silver-level plan through the exchange. In 2023, 27% of Connect for Health Colorado enrollees were receiving CSR benefits.1 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.[/efn_note]
Colorado also offers additional cost-sharing subsidies to some silver-plan enrollees and these are being further expanded in 2024.14
As a result, all Connect for Health Colorado enrollees with household income up to 250% of the poverty level will qualify for the most robust category of CSR benefit. Under federal rules, there are three levels of CSR, with the most robust benefits going to those with the lowest incomes. Colorado’s supplemental subsidies boost the lower two levels up to the benefits provided by the most robust level, resulting in much lower deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.14
If you’re eligible for both APTC and CSR, you can use them both if you enroll in a Silver-level plan through Connect for Health Colorado. (APTC can be used with any metal-level plan, but CSR benefits, including Colorado’s additional state-funded cost-sharing subsidies, are only available if you enroll in a Silver plan.)
Depending on your income and circumstances, you may be able to enroll in free or low-cost health coverage through Health First Colorado (Medicaid) or CHP+. Learn more about whether you might be eligible for these programs in Colorado.
As of 2023, Colorado provides state-funded premium and cost-sharing assistance to undocumented immigrants who enroll through a new public benefit corporation (Colorado Connect/OmniSalud) that the state has created.15 This is separate from Colorado’s health insurance exchange, as undocumented immigrants are not eligible to use an ACA-created health insurance exchange.
Source: CMS.gov 16
How many insurers offer Marketplace coverage in Colorado?
Five insurers offer health plans through Connect for Health Colorado in 2023, and that will grow to six in 2024, with the addition of SelectHealth.17
There will be six insurers offering exchange plans in Colorado for 2024 – including one newcomer – with coverage areas that vary from one insurer to another:18
- Denver Health
- Rocky Mountain Health Plans
- SelectHealth (new for 2024)
Friday Health Plans offered coverage in early 2023, but stopped accepting new enrollees in May and existing FHP policies will terminate on August 31, 2023.19
For 2024, SelectHealth plans to join the exchange in Colorado, with plans that will be available mostly along the Front Range.17 SelectHealth already offers plans in the exchange in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada. Their expansion into Colorado is due to a merger between Intermountain Health (SelectHealth is Intermountain’s insurance arm) and Colorado-based UCHealth.20
Are Marketplace health insurance premiums increasing in Colorado?
Colorado’s ACA Marketplace Plan 2024 Proposed Rate Increases by Insurance Company
|Cigna Health and Life Insurance||7.8%|
|Denver Health Medical Plan, Inc||20.7%|
|SelectHealth||New for 2024|
|Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colo.||11%|
|Rocky Mountain HMO||7.1%|
|Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc. dba Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield||13.7%|
These rate proposals are under review by the Colorado Division of Insurance, and rates will be finalized before open enrollment starts in the fall of 2023.
It’s important to keep in mind that average rate changes apply to full-price rates, and most enrollees do not pay full price: 75% of the people enrolled through Connect for Health Colorado were receiving premium subsidies in 2023, offsetting some or all of their monthly premium cost.1 CMS.gov, March 15, 2023[/efn_note] CMS.gov, March 15, 2023[/efn_note] Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.[/efn_note]
Subsidy amounts differ for each enrollee and change annually depending on the cost of the second-lowest-cost Silver plan relative to the enrollee’s household income. As a result of the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, subsidies are larger than they used to be, and also more widely available; that will continue to be true at least through 2025.23
If the cost of your plan is going up for the coming year, you may want to consider some of the other plans that are available through Connect for Health Colorado. You may find alternatives that offer similar benefits with a lower monthly cost.
How many people are insured through Colorado’s Marketplace?
During the open enrollment period for 2023 coverage, 201,758 people selected private plans through Connect for Health Colorado, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data.23
Effectuated enrollment is always a bit lower than the number of people who select plans during open enrollment. According to CMS, 180,309 people had effectuated coverage through Connect for Health Colorado as of early 2023.1
What health insurance resources are available to Colorado residents?
Connect for Health Colorado: This is the Marketplace/exchange in Colorado. Residents can use Connect for Health Colorado to enroll in individual/family health plans and receive income-based subsidies, and also to enroll in Health First Colorado. You can contact Connect for Health Colorado at 855-752-6749
Colorado Division of Insurance: Regulates the insurance industry in Colorado, and assists consumers and businesses with insurance-related questions and concerns.
Colorado Department of Health Policy and Financing (HCPF): Administers Medicaid (Health First Colorado), Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) and other health care programs.
Colorado Senior Health Care and Medicare Assistance: A service for Colorado Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers, providing information and assistance with questions related to Medicare eligibility, enrollment, and claims.
Louise Norris is an individual health insurance broker who has been writing about health insurance and health reform since 2006. She has written dozens of opinions and educational pieces about the Affordable Care Act for healthinsurance.org. Her state health exchange updates are regularly cited by media who cover health reform and by other health insurance experts.Footnotes
- “Effectuated Enrollment: Early 2023 Snapshot and Full Year 2022 Average” CMS.gov, March 15, 2023
- “Continuous Coverage Unwind Data Reporting” Colorado.gov, accessed August 2023
- “Medicare Monthly Enrollment” CMS.gov, May 2023
- “Code of Colorado Regulations eDocket” Colorado Secretary of State, accessed August 2023
- ”Who can sign up?” Connect for Health Colorado, accessed August 2023
- “OmniSalud” Connect for Health Colorado, accessed August 2023
- ”Evaluation of the Colorado Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise FY 2022/23” Colorado Division of Insurance, June 1, 2023
- “Lower Your Monthly Premiums” Connect for Health Colorado, accessed August 2023
- “After You Buy” Connect for Health Colorado, accessed August 2023
- “HB22-1289: Health Benefits for Colorado Children and Pregnant Persons” Colorado General Assembly. Enacted June 7, 2022.
- “Is there an open enrollment period for Health First Colorado?” Health First Colorado, July 17, 2016
- “Need Help with Your Health Coverage? Find Enrollment Assistance and More Using Connect for Health Colorado’s Certified Experts” Connect for Health Colorado, accessed August 2023
- ”2023 OEP State-Level Public Use File” CMS.gov, March 23, 2023
- “Amended Regulation 4-2-78 Concerning Cost Sharing Reduction Enhancements” Colorado Division of Insurance, accessed August 2023
- “Colorado Division of Insurance looking for public health AmeriCorps members to join Enroll for Health Colorado” Colorado Division of Insurance, accessed August 2023
- “2023 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period Public Use Files” CMS.gov, March 2023
- “Two Colorado health care giants are forming one big insurance network. But will consumers actually benefit? ” Colorado Sun, Jan. 24, 2023
- “Polis Administration’s Landmark Health Insurance Programs Continue to Deliver Millions in Savings for Coloradans” Colorado Division of Insurance, July 20, 2023
- “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Customers Losing Friday Health Plans Coverage as of August 31, 2023” Colorado Division of Insurance, Aug. 3, 2023
- “Intermountain Healthcare and SCL Health Complete Merger” SCL Health, April 5, 2022
- “SERFF Filing Access” SERFF, accessed August 2023
- “ACA 2024 Plan Year – Submitted Rate Changes” Colorado Division of Insurance, accessed August 2023
- “Health Insurance Marketplaces 2023 Open Enrollment Report” CMS.gov, Accessed August 2023
- “ASPE Issue Brief (2014)” ASPE, 2015
- “Health Insurance Marketplaces 2015 Open Enrollment Period: March Enrollment Report”, HHS.gov, 2015
- “HEALTH INSURANCE MARKETPLACES 2016 OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD: FINAL ENROLLMENT REPORT” HHS.gov, 2016
- “2017 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period Public Use Files” CMS.gov, 2017
- “2018 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period Public Use Files” CMS.gov, 2018
- “2019 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period Public Use Files” CMS.gov, 2019
- “2020 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period Public Use Files” CMS.gov, 2020
- “2021 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period Public Use Files” CMS.gov, 2021
- “2022 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period Public Use Files” CMS.gov, 2022