FILE - Colorado Hospitals

In this Thursday, March 9, 2017, photo, a patient heads into Denver Health Medical Center's primary care clinic located in a low-income neighborhood in southwest Denver.

(The Center Square) – Coloradans shopping for individual or small group health insurance plans can expect to see higher premiums next year.

The Colorado Division of Insurance this week announced rate approvals for the upcoming year, which include a 10.4% average premium increase for individual market plans and a 7.4% average premium increase for small group plans. Coloradans will also be able to choose from the state’s public option, called the Colorado Option; a new plan lawmakers passed last year. 

Despite the increased premiums, the Division of Insurance and the Polis administration are touting recent reforms for “driving substantial savings” totaling $326 million, which includes an estimated $294 million through the Reinsurance Program and $14.7 million from the Colorado Option. 

“Consumers could save $14.7 million in total if they enrolled in the lowest cost Colorado Option plan available to them in their county at their current metal level,” the division said.

Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, who also heads the Office of Saving People Money on Healthcare, in a statement touted the administration’s efforts to “make more savings a reality for our neighbors as we work to provide affordable, accessible, and equitable health care to all Coloradans.” 

While backers of the Colorado Option have long argued it would mean lower costs, health insurance groups pointed to the premium increases as evidence the program is “failing to deliver the savings politicians promised.”

“As the state rushes to implement the Colorado Option, it is clear they are attempting to put a positive spin on the failure of this new government-controlled health insurance system,” said Colorado’s Health Care Future, a group backed by the health care industry.

“During the program’s first year, four prominent health insurance carriers have notified the DOI they will either completely exit the Colorado market, or exit the state’s important small group market, further decreasing choices for employers and disrupting Coloradans’ access to the doctors and providers they depend on for their care,” the group added.

The Colorado Association of Health Plans, a trade group, claimed in a statement that most of the lowest-costing plans don’t come from the Colorado Option.

“The decisions made by the Polis Administration regarding the Colorado Option were fundamentally contradictory to the stated goal of saving people money on healthcare,” said Amanda Massey, the trade group’s executive director. “The outcome of those decisions are fewer carriers offering individual and small group products to consumers across the state, less competition, and higher premiums. We fully support market-based policies that actually drive down costs, but the result of Colorado’s first-in-the-nation policy shows the Administration chose politics over math.”

Earlier this year, a report on the Colorado Option by the Common Sense Institute warned that if the program can’t keep up with inflation, “health care providers will likely be forced to choose between cutting services and passing on costs by raising prices for most insured Coloradans.”

Regional Editor

Derek Draplin is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as an opinion producer at Forbes, as an editor at The Daily Caller, and as a reporter at Michigan Capitol Confidential and The Detroit News.