Regional meetings tackle rising price of health insurance | VailDaily.com

Regional meetings tackle rising price of health insurance

EDWARDS — Health insurance will cost more and you'll again have fewer choices in the state exchanges in 2017 than ever before.

Individuals shopping Colorado's state exchange for coverage in 14 Western Slope counties will have just one carrier, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

In Eagle County, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kaiser Permanente and Cigna will be available.

State and local officials are having a series of three meetings to try to figure out what, if anything, they can do about the dwindling choices on the state exchange.

“In the high country, the Affordable Care Act is not working like it’s supposed to. These high rates are unacceptable.”Kerry DonovanColorado state senator

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The first was in the Vail Valley Medical Center's Edwards facility, followed by Summit County last week, and ending later this month in Denver.

"Our communities are at the breaking point," said Dan Gibbs, Summit County commissioner.

Colorado State Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat, called health insurance costs "one of the more complicated issues I've ever tried to deal with."

"It's not a cart before a horse. We're carrying the cart and the horse at the same time," Donovan said.

Anything state lawmakers do won't provide relief until 2018, Donovan said.

It's easy to blame Obamacare, and some do, says Donovan, a Vail Democrat.

"One perspective is that the ACA created all these rates. Another perspective is that it made it possible for us to know and compare these rates.

Obamacare individual premiums will increase by 22 percent on average across the country next year, and 20 percent in Colorado, according to the Colorado Division of Insurance. Federal tax credits will help many with premium hikes, said Marguerite Salazar, Colorado's insurance commissioner.

If you're an individual buying your insurance through the state exchange, then you'll pay almost double what you did five years ago.

It's not a problem restrained to in Eagle County, Donovan said.

Our four-county region — Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Garfield — had the nation's highest health insurance costs a few short years ago.

"In the high country, the Affordable Care Act is not working like it's supposed to. These high rates are unacceptable," Donovan said.

Large insurers are reducing their stake in the state and federal health insurance exchanges established under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Citing large losses, they say enrollment has been disappointing, patients were sicker than expected, and a system to stabilize premiums didn't work well.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.