By Eric Galatas
Public News Service
For the first time, Coloradans without documentation will be able to purchase Colorado Option health insurance plans through the state's individual marketplace - and many may qualify for financial assistance.
Priya Telang, communications manager with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said the new OmniSalud program will allow more Coloradans to access routine health care and prescription drugs with lower and more predictable costs.
"Colorado Option plans will cover all of the essential health benefits that are in the Affordable Care Act," said Telang. "And a lot of the services will have no co-pays, including primary-care visits, mental health or behavioral health, pre- and post-natal care."
DACA - Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals - recipients and undocumented people also can get financial assistance.
Individuals earning less than $1,700 a month, or just under $3,500 for a family of four, can qualify for zero-premium plans.
Some health insurers and employers opposed the Colorado Option, passed by lawmakers in 2021, warning the move would lead to higher premiums and further complicate the insurance marketplace.
Telang argued that because the plans have the same benefits across metal tiers and insurance providers, the Colorado Option makes it easier for consumers to shop based on quality, network and price.
She added that the measure also requires insurance companies to reduce premiums for Standardized Plans by 5% in 2023, by 10% in 2024, and 15% in 2025, compared with 2021 premiums.
"This is a great opportunity for consumers," said Telang, "because it is creating more competition in the individual and small group market, and should lower premium costs overall."
Provisions in the Colorado Option also aim to address a persistent lack of trust in the medical system by people of color - rooted in ongoing and historical harm to those communities - by taking steps to make staffing at health centers look more like the patients they serve.
Telang noted that any information collected during the enrollment process by law cannot be shared with any federal agencies, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
"Consumers that are enrolling in the OmniSalud program aren't going to be asked for their immigration status," said Telang. "And information from health insurance enrollment is confidential."