Roberts’ rural Colorado bills could help with high healthcare costs, economic setbacks | VailDaily.com

Roberts’ rural Colorado bills could help with high healthcare costs, economic setbacks

Rep. Dylan Roberts is pushing a pair of bills through the state legislarure, one that would address the disparity between health insurance costs in rural Colorado and the Front Range, and one to help communities crippled when industries close.

DENVER – Two bills designed to help rural Colorado communities took another step toward becoming state law last week.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, pushed a bill to reduce the disparity in health insurance costs between rural Colorado and the Front Range.

A second bill, sponsored by Roberts in the state House and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, in the state Senate, will help rural communities hit with significant job losses. Delta and Routt counties, as well as others, suffered crippling job losses when plants closed and mines were mothballed.

If this bill becomes law, affected communities will be able get help from Colorado's Department of Local Affairs to coordinate state-level assistance efforts, and as a single point of contact for nonmonetary resources from other state divisions and departments.

"Rural communities may lack the administrative bandwidth to write grants and apply for support in times of economic hardship," Roberts said. "This bill makes (the Department of Local Affairs) a one-stop shop for the various state programs that can help a rural community get back up after an economic knockdown."

Roberts' health insurance cost bill, HB18-1205, aims to reduce the disparity in health-care costs between rural Coloradans and those on the Front Range. When Obamacare first became law, Eagle County was part of a four-county group in Colorado's high country that had the highest health insurance rates in the country.

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The bill would provide temporary financial assistance to individuals and their families. To be eligible:

• Families cannot earn more than $125,000 for a family of four — 500 percent of the federal poverty level.

• Families must be spending more than 20 percent of their household income on health insurance premiums.

• Families must live in one of 48 counties in the western half, southern tier or eastern third of Colorado.

• Recipients would not be eligible for any other health insurance, including U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicaid, Medicare or group policies, and assistance would only go toward purchase of the lowest-price "bronze" plan on the state health-care exchange.

The House Health, Insurance & Environment Committee voted 7-6 to send it to the to the Appropriations Committee.

"High health-care costs affect most rural Coloradans, and economic setbacks have a disproportionate impact on smaller communities," Roberts said. "These two bills will mean a lot for the rural parts of our state. I went to Denver to fight for rural Coloradans, and I take that responsibility very seriously."

Roberts represents Eagle and Routt counties in Colorado's House of Representatives.

Donovan's Senate District 5 covers Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.

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