Romer: We mustn’t fear the status quo of high health insurance costs |

Romer: We mustn’t fear the status quo of high health insurance costs


You may be familiar with the “five monkeys” experiment where an experimenter puts five monkeys in a large cage. High up at the top of the cage, well beyond the reach of the monkeys, is a bunch of bananas. Underneath the bananas is a ladder.

The monkeys immediately spot the bananas and one begins to climb the ladder. As he does, however, the experimenter sprays him with a stream of cold water. Then, he proceeds to spray each of the other monkeys.

The monkey on the ladder scrambles off. All five sit for a time on the floor, wet, cold, and bewildered. Soon, though, the temptation of the bananas is too great, and another monkey begins to climb the ladder. Again, the experimenter sprays the ambitious monkey with cold water and all the other monkeys as well. When a third monkey tries to climb the ladder, the other monkeys, wanting to avoid the cold spray, pull him off the ladder and beat him.

Now one monkey is removed, and a new monkey is introduced to the cage. Spotting the bananas, he naively begins to climb the ladder. The other monkeys pull him off and beat him.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The experimenter removes a second one of the original monkeys from the cage and replaces him with a new monkey. Again, the new monkey begins to climb the ladder and, again, the other monkeys pull him off and beat him — including the monkey who had never been sprayed.

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By the end of the experiment, none of the original monkeys were left and yet, despite none of them ever experiencing the cold, wet spray, they had all learned never to try and go for the bananas.

Stifling health care solutions

The lesson from this story and its application to health care is clear. Despite the exhortations from communities across the nation, cold water is poured on people and their ideas whenever someone tries something new — such as health care sharing programs or association health care plans. Or, perhaps worse, the entire system is structured in such a way as to support the status quo.

Case in point: The Colorado Division of Insurance recently issued a consumer alert about the risks of health care sharing programs or ministries. In its release, the state claims that these programs may look and sound like insurance, which can entice people to join, thinking that they’re getting the full coverage and benefits of health insurance when they’re not. 

The One Valley Healthcare Program is one of these plans. It is a comprehensive and cost-effective alternative to traditional plans — and we repeatedly reiterate the fact the program is not insurance. Let’s be clear: This program is not insurance. 

Members are clearly informed of the benefits and limitations of the program, including the underlying requirements for membership. Many people balk at the high annual premiums accompanied by excessive deductibles charged by traditional insurance carriers, and over 18% of Eagle County residents are uninsured. 

We, unlike the state government, trust people to research and understand what they are buying — repeating multiple times to ensure there is no confusion that the program is not insurance. Similar programs to ours have launched around the state; these programs have many characteristics that the traditional insurance industry could learn from.  

The status quo simply doesn’t work, and we are no longer willing to be the monkeys in the experiment living in a fear-based world. Instead, we will continue to work to bring meaningful options to address the high cost of health care in our region.

Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at

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