Colorado is losing insurance options, especially on the Western Slope

A cardiogram pulse trace. (George Hodan)

Coloradans will have less choice in 2017 in the state health insurance exchange than in any year since the program began in 2014.

Residents seeking exchange coverage in 14 of Colorado’s 64 counties — all of them on the Western Slope — will have just one carrier, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

In 2014, every Colorado county had at least three carriers, and some had eight.

Front Range counties will have the most options in the state next year, topped by Denver, El Paso and Jefferson counties with five carriers each.

Because of dwindling choices, the Colorado Division of Insurance says about 92,000 people will need to switch plans during open enrollment for 2017 that begins Nov. 1.

Large insurers are reducing their stake in the state and federal health insurance exchanges established under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Citing large losses, they say enrollment has been disappointing, patients were sicker than expected, and a system to stabilize premiums didn’t work well.

Those 2017 premiums will rise an average 20 percent for individuals under the Connect for Health Colorado state exchange, the insurance division says. Federal tax credits will help many with premium hikes.

The nation’s uninsured rate has dropped to less than 9 percent under the health overhaul, a prime objective of the overhaul. The percentage of Coloradans without health insurance has dropped from 14 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent this year, according to the nonprofit Colorado Health Institute.