Updated: 2021-02-16 by
It's not too late! Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) enrollment will be OPEN in Colorado from February 8 to May 15.
Colorado has announced a special enrollment period (SEP) for health plan signups under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). This COVID-related enrollment period will run from February 8 to May 15. It mirrors the federal special enrollment period announced by the Biden administration, but Colorado's SEP begins one week earlier and it applies only to those who are currently uninsured.
This website provides information about getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including:
- whether you must get health insurance
- what the available plans cover
- how much coverage will cost
- how to sign up for a plan
- how to get help if you need it.
To begin, keep in mind these key points about health insurance in Colorado:
1. You can use the COVID special enrollment period to get covered under the Affordable Care Act, even though open enrollment is over.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Connect for Health Colorado will be open for new Obamacare signups between February 8 and May 15, 2021. If you are currently uninsured, you can use this special enrollment period to get covered for 2021. To learn more about enrollment, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Colorado.
If you already have health insurance. If you're already insured, you can change plans only if you have a "qualifying life event." Otherwise, you must wait until open enrollment for 2022 plans begins in the fall of 2021. To learn whether you qualify for a special enrollment period that will allow you to switch plans, see What Happens If I Missed the Colorado Obamacare Enrollment Deadline?
2. You won’t face a tax penalty for going without health insurance in 2021—but there are big downsides to being uninsured.
Obamacare’s tax penalty went away in 2019. That means that if you didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2020, you won’t have to pay a penalty when you file your taxes this year.
However, even though there's no more tax penalty, think hard about whether it makes sense to forego health insurance. A medical crisis could knock the financial wind from your sails and do more damage than the penalty would. (A study published in 2019 showed that a lapse in health insurance coverage can double a person's chances of ending up in bankruptcy.) Even if you missed open enrollment for 2021, special circumstances may allow you to obtain coverage.
3. Average premium rates have remained fairly stable and insurers are sticking with the marketplace, despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For plans offered to individuals and families through ACA marketplaces, health insurance premium increases tended to be moderate. More than half of all U.S. marketplace insurers came in with rate changes between a 3.5% decrease and a 4.6% increase, though of course there were outliers. Some people saw their premiums drop by 42% while others saw them skyrocket by more than 25%. This article from the Kaiser Family Foundation contains a table listing 2021 rate changes for insurance providers in every state.
4. Premium subsidies are available to save you money, and Colorado state subsidies are on the way.
Several forms of financial assistance can help you lower your health insurance premiums. Those listed below are federal programs under the ACA, but keep your eyes out for Colorado state health insurance subsidies coming in 2023.
Federal tax credits. The federal government provides help with premium payments for those whose incomes fall between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level. For example, for 2021 health plans, a family of four in Colorado earning as much as $104,800 can qualify for subsidies, as can an individual who earns up to $51,040. Though the subsidies are tax credits, they are automatically deducted from the cost of your premiums each month, as long as you purchase your plan through Connect for Health Colorado.
Cost-sharing reductions. More than half of the people who purchase coverage through a health insurance exchange receive "cost-sharing reductions" (CSRs). Originally, these were payments the federal government made to insurance companies that allowed them to reduce deductibles and co-payments for lower-income Americans. In 2017, the Trump administration stopped paying for CSRs, but insurers and many state regulators found a creative way to keep the program alive—adding the costs to silver marketplace plans through a practice called “silver loading”—so CSR benefits remain available for 2020 insurance plans.
Keep in mind that cost-sharing subsidies are available only on silver plans. They will automatically reduce your premium if your income is no more than 250% of the federal poverty level. (For 2021 health plans, that means a family of four in Colorado can't earn more than $65,500 and an individual not more than $25,520.) If you think you may qualify, look carefully at costs for the silver plans available at Connect for Health Colorado while you are shopping for coverage.
Medicaid. If your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Health First Colorado in Colorado.
For more information, see Ways to Save Money on Obamacare in Colorado.
5. No Insurers Sell Short-Term Plans in Colorado.
In 2018, the Trump administration made it easier to purchase short-term insurance plans. These plans don't have to cover preexisting conditions or the essential health benefits provided by Obamacare plans. The federal rules say that short-term plans can last for as long as three years. States can make their own rules, however, and the federal changes will have little effect in Colorado. Colorado requires all insurance plans to meet strict standards, including coverage of preexisting conditions and a comprehensive package of benefits. For this reason, no insurers are currently selling short-term health insurance plans in Colorado.
Remember, if your income is very low, you may qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Health First Colorado in Colorado.
6. You can get help signing up if you need it.
A couple of years back, the Trump administration drastically cut funding for programs that provide help with health insurance enrollment. But the Biden administration is expected to quickly reverse that trend, making it much easier to get the information you need to get covered. To connect with local support resources, see How To Sign Up for Obamacare in Colorado.
You may also be interested in:
Where to go in Colorado to get health plans under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and how to get help with the application process.
Learn whether you must have health coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in Colorado.
Learn the five factors that determine what residents of Colorado will pay for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act