Starting next year, residents in Pitkin, Eagle, and Garfield county could pay less for health insurance. State Insurance officials decided Friday to change how insurance companies come up with monthly premium prices. But the state’s top insurance official says that won’t get to the root of the problem.
Marguerite Salazar is Colorado’s Insurance Commissioner, and she says the idea is to expand the group of counties paying for insurance, and health care, in Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield Counties.
“The more people we have in a risk pool, we can spread risk the that much further. And hopefully we will see premiums that will be lower for next year.”
The decision comes after months of lobbying from local and state representatives to address really high health insurance prices for residents in the so-called resort pricing area.
“In fact some of the premiums were over 2000 dollars a month, which we can agree is pretty hefty.”
Commissioner Salazar ordered the Division of Insurance to take a hard look at why those monthly bills are so high-- and after crunching millions of lines of data, she says it comes down to this.
“The reason behind that is really can be traced back to the cost of health care and what the insurance companies were paying for health care in those areas.”
In other words, it’s really expensive to see a doctor in the Roaring Fork Valley, and people tend to need a lot of care. That’s true for Summit County communities, too. So while Friday’s decision is aimed at bringing down insurance prices in the short term… Salazar says a group of people are continuing to tackle the larger issue. They’re on something called the Cost Containment Commission, created by the state legislature.
“That commission will be able to take that information, and go to the next step. Making recommendations about what we can do and how can we take on these big issues that are in front of us, to try to make healthcare more affordable, to make premiums go down, and understand what happens in our state.”
There had been accusations of the state not doing enough before to make sure insurance prices are calculated fairly. Commissioner Salazar says her agency’s investigation shows that was not the case.
Insurance companies have been notified of the recent change to lower premium prices. Ultimately the new system still has to be approved by the federal government. The Division of Insurance says there’s no formal deadline, but the agency has requested a quick response.