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DENVER — Health insurance premiums are dropping substantially for Coloradans buying individual insurance plans on the state exchange next year, Gov. Jared Polis announced Thursday.

Polis told a Capitol news conference that the average 2020 price drop for individuals will be more than 20% from current rates. It’s the first drop of any kind since enrollments on the exchange began in 2013.

That’s largely because of a new state-run reinsurance program in which the state covers the highest-cost cases, allowing insurers to moderate their rates.

The new rates for individuals go into effect once the buying period for 2021 commences on the state exchange on Nov. 1.

In western Colorado, which suffers some of the nation’s highest insurance rates and among its fewest insurer options, families could save more than $10,000 a year, according to estimates released by the Division of Insurance.

The region’s population suffers some of the nation’s highest insurance rates in part because few insurers do business there.

The reinsurance program is designed to help more than 250,000 Coloradans who buy coverage on the individual market created under former President Barack Obama’s health care law.

That’s about 8% of individuals who buy plans on the state exchange called Connect for Health Colorado and who don’t have an employer or government insurance plan.

Polis and legislators spoke about other initiatives they’re tackling to address health care affordability and coverage.

Democratic Rep. Julie McCluskie of Dillon said she was optimistic the state could replicate an experiment under way in Summit County.

The initiative, called Peak Health Alliance, is a group of large employers that together negotiated lower prices from health care providers — and used those prices to get better rates from health insurance companies, The Denver Post reports.

McCluskie said alliance members also benefiting from the reinsurance cuts could see premium drops of up to 50% in 2020.

Polis said his administration will pursue opportunities for more such alliances to form.