A state senator is hoping to help people in the Roaring Fork Valley who have to get a new insurance plan for next year. About seven thousand residents in the Pitkin, Eagle, Garfield and Summit counties will have to shop for new health coverage, after the state dropped the ax on the health insurance carrier Colorado HealthOp.
The state explains the move by saying the company wasn’t bringing in enough money to pay the bills. State Senator Kerry Donovan confirmed Thursday that she’s signing on with a local effort to ease the transition for residents stuck having to find a new plan for next year. That likely will include: “A town hall style forum that hopefully can be attended by folks up and down the Roaring Fork Valley, to give them information and allow them to know what steps they can take in the upcoming weeks to address any concerns they have with health care.”
Donovan’s district covers Pitkin and Eagle counties, in addition to several others on the Western Slope. And she’s responding to organizing efforts by Basalt resident Robin Waters, who runs that town’s Chamber of Commerce. “What I’m trying to do is to create an opportunity for people to come in and understand what has happened,” explained Waters this week. “And [then they can] learn about their options in the most efficient way possible.”
Representatives of Connect for Health Colorado will be at the forum, which is tentatively slated for Thursday, November 12th. Former Colorado HealthOp customers can shop for new insurance through Connect for Health and Waters says she knows that can be painful. “Probably I spend, I don’t know how many hours on hold,” she laments. “And then was hung up upon, and then people didn’t call back, and it was not an easy process.” So Waters hopes a forum would make it as easy as possible for people to sign up for a new plan.
The state’s Division of Insurance may also have a representative at the event. A spokesperson said Thursday that shopping is always a good idea anyway, since some plans are more affordable from one year to the next. “As with so many other things we buy, it is in the consumer’s interest to shop around and see what’s happening,” says Vince Plymell. “A lot of times I’ll compare it to what happens with your cable or your cell phone. You might get a good price that first year, but lo and behold in years two and three that price goes up.”
State senator Kerry Donovan agrees that shopping around is a good idea. “But I will say I’m frustrated with that comment,” she says, “and what a lot of people are frustrated with, is this news that rates are going to increase so significantly.” The cost of individual plans in Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield Counties will be going up by 10% next year, so regardless of whether residents have to change their plan, everyone’s going to be paying more for their health insurance.