Locals Adjust to New Health Care Plans

Jun 16, 2014

     Adjusting to new health insurance rules has been a big shift for just about everyone involved in health care--whether it's patients, nurses or insurance workers. Six months ago the Affordable Care Act started requiring nearly everyone have insurance. We were curious to do a check-up and find out how patients are getting used to new healthcare plans. 

Angus Morrison is perched on the sofa in his living room, holding a booklet. It's a pretty June morning in Aspen, at one of the town’s affordable housing units.

"Oh, I just got my nice Rocky Mountain Health Plan coverage care guide here, and I have the Rocky Mountain View PPO Bronze, with the $4500 deductible, and a $55 co-pay."

That’s with in-network doctors, which Morrison says are right around the corner at Aspen Valley Hospital. Most of his adult life he hasn't had insurance, except for a short period a few years ago when he worked for the Aspen Skiing Company.

"And when I stopped making snow for them, I had to give up my health plan or pay the whole bit. Which was like about three hundred bucks a month. And couldn’t really afford that."

Now he's paying about that much, but for both him and his wife, Ally. And, in full disclosure, I’m friends with them both. Morrison says it took a lot of time and effort to figure out which plan to sign up for, through the online state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, but he says, it’s been worth it.

Aspen resident Catherine Lutz also describes the signup process as tricky, but she's been pleasantly surprised with how much lower her family's premium is, compared to their previous plan. Lutz and her husband have two young children.

“At first it was $150, and I was ecstatic. I mean going from $750 a month to $150 a month was amazing, and then when it dropped down to $90 a month, I was in a little bit of disbelief, but I wasn’t going to question it."

Overall, the monthly charges for their plan, which is with the insurance company Anthem, are much higher. A tax subsidy is covering most of it.

“It’s a high deductible, with a lower premium. That’s what we wanted, we want to be able to save our own money for health insurance, for health matters, and not have to pay high premiums.”

As for whether it comes with good care, Lutz is reserving judgment at this point. She recently took her one year old in for a checkup, and found the insurance may not cover all the things she had researched. So she's resigning herself to hashing it out over the coming months.

Across town, yoga instructor Evan Soroka is taking care of some personal business between classes.

"So I’m testing my blood sugar which is something I have to do like eight times a day. And I already feel like I’m getting low, meaning like I’m hypoglycemic."

Soroka has Type 1 diabetes. She's says health insurance has always been really expensive, because she has to pay thousands of dollars for insulin and other supplies. Like many residents in the Roaring Fork Valley, Soroka qualified for a government insurance program, called Medicaid.

 “Things are covered, but it’s just in smaller doses. Where I used to get boxes of insulin supplies for my insulin pump, now I only get one little box, and I have to think a little bit more about conserving it.”

But, there’s a downside to being on Medicaid in the Roaring Fork Valley. As Aspen Public Radio has reported before, there's aren't many doctors in the Roaring Fork Valley accepting Medicaid patients.

“My diabetic in doctor in Denver, luckily was covered, but seems to me that not many doctors here in the Valley cover. So I have to really look into that,  and see what I’m gonna do cause I don’t know when I’m going to get sick."

Just before we aired this story, Soroka did get sick, and is searching for a doctor in the Valley who will take her.