Eagle County representatives say new legislature could bring more health care options
EAGLE COUNTY — Like many of the world’s most wonderful places to live, it’s tough to get ahead here if you’re a working person in your 20s or 30s.
And health insurance isn’t exactly a high priority among people in that age group.
It’s something Avon resident Dylan Roberts has long been aware of from being in that demographic himself, but the newly elected state representative said he had a hard reminder of that fact during his campaign in 2018.
“Now that the individual mandate is gone, people have told me they are going to go without health insurance, because it’s too expensive,” Roberts said. “They’re doing the cost benefit analysis just like everything they do in their lives, and deciding to risk it.”
What lies ahead for some of these people, says Roberts, are those trips to the emergency room that we always hear about, the ones that make health care so much more expensive for the rest of us.
“If they end up going to the emergency room, they’re of course going to get care, and that cost falls on everybody else,” he said. “So we need to find ways we to incentivize people to purchase health insurance so everybody stays healthy, and when somebody does get sick or gets injured, their costs aren’t paid for by a smaller pool.”
‘ONLY ONE OPTION’
Four years ago, a 25-year-old Roberts was preparing to enter the health insurance market on his 26th birthday.
“It was definitely not as easy as I think it should be,” he said.
When he finally purchased his insurance through the state’s official website, “It was a huge payment that I had to start making at that age,” he said.
Roberts is also part of the Eagle County renters market, and recently moved from one town in the county to another, as renters here frequently do.
“If you’re not required to buy health insurance anymore, that’s probably going to be the first thing to go if you’re a 20-something or 30-something in Eagle County, because you’re paying 40 to 50 percent of your monthly income on rent, and then you have all of your other living expenses,” he said.
Roberts said the most obvious way to bring down the price of health insurance is to create more options.
“That’s one of the biggest cost drivers for people in our area,” Roberts said. “There’s only one option on the individual market for most people, and that option just keeps getting more and more expensive, but they have no choice.”
Roberts says he has new hope that some of his ideas on how to incentivize people to purchase insurance will work.
Last session, he had a bill pass the House which would have started a process of a public option where people can purchase their health insurance through the Medicaid program or a health insurance co-op, but it was defeated in the Senate state affairs committee.
“I already have the groundwork for that bill laid and I think that’s the route we need to go,” Roberts said.
That bill was one of a several that “met their fate on a party-line vote in the Senate,” as characterized by State Senator Kerry Donovan.
Now that Democrats control both the state House and Senate, “I think there’s some hope that we can make some progress on some of these issues,” Donovan said.
Donovan said she heard directly from Governor-elect Jared Polis health care would be one of his primary areas of focus.
“I’ll be working with him and others to figure out what combination of solutions — including looking at drug price transparency, bills that let us put people before corporations — will be amongst the suite of solutions that we start to look at to bring down the cost of health care in the high country,” she said.
Eagle County will be a ground zero of sorts in their efforts, Donovan said.
“The trend lines that we’re seeing that started in the mountain communities are now starting to be duplicated in other areas of the state,” she said. “We’re seeing the price increase spread further than the original epicenter of the high Rocky Mountain ski communities.”
Paul Cuthbertson, a lifelong local of Eagle and Summit counties, died while skiing up to the Polar Star Inn to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday on Friday night.