As CO-OP closures continue, questions loom for state exchanges

Amid news of yet another consumer operated and oriented plan (CO-OP) closure in Utah, lawmakers in Colorado are worried about the future of the state's health insurance exchange after the failure of its own CO-OP.

Arches Health Plan became the latest CO-OP to close, with an announcement Wednesday that Utah's Department of Insurance asked it to wind down business due to a shortfall in the federal government's risk corridor program and other factors. It will no longer be eligible to participate in Utah's health insurance exchange starting in 2016.

Utah is the 10th CO-OP of the 23 state-based nonprofit insurers established under the Affordable Care Act to shut down. 

In Colorado, the shutdown of its CO-OP will leave thousands scrambling to sign up for another plan and has some lawmakers worried about higher prices, according to an Associated Press report. Colorado HealthOP, the state's largest nonprofit health insurer, had more than 80,000 customers.

Colorado exchange officials say they are ready to help consumers find alternative health plans when enrollment begins Sunday and promised customers would not face long hold times or other delays.

But a panel of Colorado lawmakers said this week that they're worried about whether customers will be able to afford the remaining plans available on the marketplace, according to the AP. Those plans average about 12 percent higher than last year, according to state insurance regulators. 

Division of Insurance officials estimate it will cost anywhere from $40 million to $70 million to wind down Colorado HealthOP, costs that will be passed on to other insurance ratepayers, the article notes.

To learn more:
- read the Utah announcement
- here's the Associated Press report