Gov. Jared Polis proposes Peak Health collaborative model for state workers |

Gov. Jared Polis proposes Peak Health collaborative model for state workers

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis speaks during a health forum Friday, Feb. 1, at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco.
Hugh Carey /

Gov. Jared Polis proposed Thursday that all public workers in the state form a health care purchasing collaborative to negotiate lower prices with health providers and insurance companies. The proposal would emulate Summit County’s own Peak Health Alliance purchasing collaborative that is set to go live in 2020.

Polis floated the proposal during a legislative workshop in Breckenridge hosted by the Colorado Municipal League.

In emulating the Peak model, the state’s 30,000 public employees would form a single negotiating bloc — as opposed to individuals or employers shopping on their own — to bargain for lower rates from health providers on services.

The bargained rate list would then be put out for insurance companies to bid on, with the expectation of lower premiums with no core services being cut or diminished.

Peak Health Alliance is currently going through that process, having already bargained a price list with Centura Health, owner of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, and having contracted with insurance companies Rocky Mountain Health Plans and Bright Health.

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Tamara Drangstveit, who will be Peak Health’s inaugural executive director and is the outgoing executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, said that while she is not apprised of Polis’ plans for a statewide collaborative program, she supports the idea.

“Obviously, we’re excited that the state thinks Peak can be a model for other areas in other ways,” Drangstveit said.

Drangstveit said Peak is currently waiting for another lever in the process — approval of the price rates from the state’s division of insurance after they were submitted this past Friday — before being able to confirm the cost savings for Summit consumers.

Drangstveit said that the Division of Insurance will formally release the rates for 2020 sometime in mid-August to early September, which will bring clarity to exactly how much Peak customers will be able to save.

“We’re really optimistic that, once we know how the rate filings from Division of Insurance pan out, those rates will bring real relief to residents of Summit County,” Drangstveit said.

The Peak Health Alliance was formed by Drangstveit and other Summit County community leaders as a response to soaring health care premiums on the Western Slope.

Data released through transparency requirements from the Affordable Care Act showed that Summit households at 400% of the federal poverty level are spending 30% to 40% of their income on medical costs. Individual consumers saw their premiums double between 2015 and 2019.

In early 2018, Drangstveit and the group that eventually founded Peak Health Alliance met with then-interim and current state insurance commissioner Michael Conway.

Conway explained the various reasons why premiums were so high on the Western Slope. There was market instability in the wake of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, as well as unintended consequences of a geographical region-based insurance system.

But most of all, Conway said, the problem was prices. Few providers meant less competition, which means less leverage for consumers.

Conway, after reviewing law allowing cooperative purchasing collaboratives, suggested residents in Summit increase their leverage by banding together to bargain with the area’s largest hospital, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, as well as with health insurers.

Spurred along with legislative changes and elbow work by Drangstveit and community backers including The Summit Foundation, the Peak Health Alliance was formed.

In previous press releases, Peak Health Alliance promised significant savings to Summit residents from what they are currently paying. Along with a health reinsurance program recently passed into law by Gov. Polis, Summit County residents should expect to see some health care cost relief next year.

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