Vail Valley Partnership CEO: ‘Yes, and’ approach needed to address community challenges (column) |

Vail Valley Partnership CEO: ‘Yes, and’ approach needed to address community challenges (column)

Chris Romer
Vail Valley Partnership

State and local community challenges that include housing, health insurance, transit, transportation and child care all share a common response if they are to be solved: a “yes, and …” approach.

By using this approach the “yes” portion of the process encourages the acceptance of the contributions added by others. Participants are encouraged to agree to propositions, fostering a sense of cooperation rather than shutting down the suggestion and effectively ending the line of communication.

In an organizational or problem-solving setting, saying “yes” in theory encourages people to listen and be receptive to the ideas of others. Rather than immediately judging the idea, one should initially accept the idea, which enables the discussion to expand on the idea without limitations.

The next step is to add new information into the narrative — the “and” part of “Yes, and …”

Easier Said than done

Granted, this is easier said than done. Most of us say “no” a lot. In fairness, we have to. Our time and energy is limited. In order to get things done, we have to be diligent about how best to utilize our time.

So what would happen if we applied the “Yes, and …” technique to our community challenges? Would it change our approach? Would it result in better outcomes? Would it help support our entrepreneur community, help us retain residents and help make Eagle County a more business friendly community?

Let’s match this approach with health insurance. It’s no surprise that we have some of the highest insurance premiums in the nation, and that the cost of insurance coverage is unduly burdening our community. The Vail Valley Partnership has been actively working with our providers, the state and our elected officials to help tackle this community issue.

In June, the U.S. Department of Labor unveiled the final version of its association plan rule that allows more small businesses and self-employed workers to band together to buy insurance. The final rule is part of the administration’s plan to encourage competition in the health insurance markets and lower the cost of coverage. It broadens the definition of an employer under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, to allow more groups to form association health plans and bypass rules under the Affordable Care Act (this is the federal law that governs health benefits and retirement plans offered by large employers).

Despite support at a federal level, the state (really) doesn’t like these plans.

State Innovation Waivers

Meanwhile, Section 1332 of the federal Affordable Care Act permits a state to apply for a State Innovation Waiver to pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of the ACA.

State Innovation Waivers allow states to implement creative ways to provide access to quality health care that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as would be provided absent the waiver and provides coverage to a comparable number of residents of the state as would be provided coverage absent a waiver and does not increase the federal deficit.

Fourteen states have applied for innovation waivers to help address health insurance. Colorado isn’t one of them.

Knowing the Department of Labor supports more specialized groups, and knowing that State Innovation Waivers are possible, what could this look like for Eagle County if we applied a “Yes, and …” approach to our health insurance challenge?

A “Yes, and” approach might say “yes, we will explore association groups…and we will apply for an innovation waiver to make it possible.” This would likely lead to increased options and flexibility, choice and competition — which is almost always good for the consumer.

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

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