Colorado report: Small business health coverage on the decline

The number of small businesses in Colorado providing health insurance to their employees continued to decline in 2011, but at a slower pace than previous years.

According to a report from the Colorado Division of Insurance, the number of small group employers offering health insurance dropped 2,210, or about 7 percent from 2010. The number of people in the small group market covered by insurance fell 10,625, or about 4 percent.

The declines continued a downward trend in the small group health insurance market in Colorado from previous years, but at a slower rate.

The small group market is comprised of employers who offer coverage through a Colorado regulated health plan to no more than 50 eligible employees for at least half the year.

The largest proportional drop in the small group market in 2011 involved sole proprietors. The number of health plans issued for so-called business groups of one retreated 35 percent.

A decrease also was reported in the number of plans for businesses with one to five employees.

At the same time, though, the number of plans offered by employers with 26 to 50 employees increased 342, or about 53 percent. Those plans covered 18,628 more people in 2011 than 2010, a gain of 59 percent.

The number of plans for employers with six to 50 employees also increased.

“Small businesses continue to play a vital role in Colorado’s insurance market. It is encouraging to see the increases in health coverage for employees who work for some of the larger companies within the small group market. But the smallest employers are still struggling to provide health insurance,” said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Jim Riesberg.

The Colorado Division of Insurance also reported that small businesses shifted to multi-option insurance plans offering employees more choices in coverage. The use of Health Savings Account-qualified plans decreased in proportion to other plans.

The 2011 Colorado Small Group Activity Report is available online at the Colorado Division of Insurance Web site located at