• Tom Genes

Healthcare Insurance Meeting

A Colorado nonprofit that negotiates lower healthcare insurance premiums is holding meetings in Garfield County, as part of a regional effort to explore better rate options for citizens and businesses. Individuals and groups are invited to learn more about a new county-supported opportunity to lower health insurance premiums.

Peak Health Alliance is offering presentations Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Garfield County Administration Building, 108 8th Street, Glenwood Springs, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and then in the first-floor meeting room at the Garfield County Administration Building in Rifle, 195 West 14th Ave., Building D, from 1 to 3 p.m.

These meetings are open to the public, and are designed to inform individuals, businesses and health care providers about the Peak Health program, and its potential to help lower insurance premiums in Garfield County.

The cooperative, which was founded in Summit County, purchases health insurance through carriers that have demonstrated competitive rates and comprehensive plans. It is licensed through the state but is not a part of the state government. Peak Health helps members to make price-conscious decisions without sacrificing quality of care.

Peak Health made a presentation in November before the Board of County Commissioners, which has long been looking into solutions for the high cost of health insurance in Garfield County. The entire Western Slope, except for Mesa County, is in geographic rating area nine, which sees the most expensive health care insurance premiums in the country.

Peak Health Alliance provides a model that will further lower health insurance premiums for individuals and small and large groups. Instead of waiting for relief from the state or federal government, this provides a local solution to address health care and health insurance costs.

“Health insurance across the United States, and in western Colorado in particular, is a very big issue,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “It’s very expensive, and we were very pleased when Sen. Bob Rankin got the reinsurance bill passed. That bill brought down the cost of insurance for individual policies by close to 30 percent, but we need to do more.”

The Reinsurance Program, House Bill 19-1168, provides reinsurance payments to health insurance providers in the state’s Connect for Health insurance marketplace to help cover more expensive claims, thus lowering costs in mountain communities, where premiums are much higher.

In November, the BOCC unanimously approved a $50,000 grant from the Department of Human Services budget to bring Peak Health’s services to Garfield County. Tamara Pogue Drangstveit, CEO of Peak Health, told the commissioners that Summit County saw the percentage of working-class families’ budgets increase from 10 to 40 percent for health care costs.

“Much like here, families were spending $2,500 a month more than their mortgages and child care costs on health insurance,” she said. “Many of them were moving away and small businesses were closing because they couldn’t find employees that they needed.

“What that said to us is that there was an opportunity to rebalance our system to work with the hospitals and insurance carriers to try and ultimately create some relief for consumers,” Drangstveit added. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure that the insurance that we offer provides coverage that actually helps people.”

In Summit County, Peak Health has negotiated rates of care to between 250 and 300 percent of Medicare costs, helping insurance carriers to lower premiums by 20 percent. All the prices are set, so customers know exactly what they will be paying for care.

“I’ve heard from about 10 customers that their savings are going to be about $800 to $1,400 a month on their premiums for a family of four,” Drangstveit told the commissioners. “One business with about 95 employees, told us that it anticipates saving 25 percent off its annual health insurance premiums.”

“The Peak Health Alliance model will further lower health insurance premiums for individuals as well

as small and large groups, helping all of Garfield County,” Jankovsky added.

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