Vail Valley Partnership’s One Valley Healthcare Program off to a promising start | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley Partnership’s One Valley Healthcare Program off to a promising start

While the program isn't for everyone, the Vail Valley Partnership's One Valley Healthcare Program already has more than 100 participants

Two new bills in the state legislature could mitigate costs for Eagle County residents who don't get insurance through their employer.
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Four facts
  • 105 people enrolled in the first 60 days.
  • The main partner is the Small Association Leadership Alliance.
  • The One Valley Healthcare Program’s “Apex” plan qualify as “minimum essential coverage” under the federal Affordable Care Act.
  • This isn’t insurance. To learn more, see the frequently asked questions page on the Vail Valley Partnership’s website.

EAGLE COUNTY — It’s always hard to tell how the public will react to a brand-new program. In the case of the One Valley Healthcare Program, the early answer is, “so far, so good.”

The Vail Valley Partnership in late November announced the One Valley Healthcare Program, an alternative to standard health insurance that claims to reduce costs for both businesses and individuals. That’s a potentially huge deal in an area with some of the highest health insurance costs in the country. In the program’s first 60 days or so, more than 100 people and businesses have signed up.

Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer said the group is pleased with the response so far, but added that no one really had any expectations when the plan was launched.

“This is new, it’s not traditional insurance,” Romer said, adding that the plan isn’t for everyone and that potential participants have a lot of homework to do before determining if the plan is a good fit for their needs.

In all the promotional and informational material about the plan, it’s stressed often that this isn’t insurance. It doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions including asthma, diabetes or cancer.

But plan backers say it does meet the minimum coverage requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.

How it works

Members pay a monthy fee into one of two plans administered by the Small Association Leadership Alliance, a nationwide group of chambers and other groups. Apex Management Group and Sedera Health are the other partners. Money from those fees are collected into a pool. Plan administrators have negotiated prices for services with local providers including Vail Health and Colorado Mountain Medical. Plan members are also encouraged to shop around for services. That’s part of the extra homework involved to participate.

If someone requires care while out of town on vacation, plan administrators will negotiate prices with those providers.

While the One Valley plan is open for business, state regulators expressed concern about it when it was rolled out last year, particularly regarding how well participants would understand the plan’s requirements.

So far, though, people seem attracted to the program’s potential savings.

In information supplied by the Vail Valley Partnership, the health care coverage for one family of four has declined from $2,300 per month to $904. A couple that was paying more than $1,900 per month is now paying $730, and an individual whose bills were $900 per month is now paying $403.

Participants aren’t just in the Vail Valley.

Before the One Valley program launched, the Partnership in mid-2018 rolled out a “community membership” for individuals to join the group. That membership has attracted a number of second homeowners, Romer said.

Some of those community members have now signed up for the One Valley plan, Romer said.

Questions, and interest

When the One Valley plan launched, Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh — a former Vail Valley Partnership board member — said he’d be interested to learn more about the program.

Brumbaugh used to offer health insurance to his roughly 20 full-time employees but had to stop when the Affordable Care Act drove drastic price increases in this area.

Brumbaugh, who gets his health insurance through his wife’s employer these days, said his employees are looking hard into participating in the plan.

Brumbaugh’s employees, by and large, would seem to be a good fit for the plan since they’re mostly young and healthy.

Brumbaugh said one of his managers has participated in some introductory conference calls and video presentations. That person seems “fairly happy” with what’s been learned, Brumbaugh said.

“Everybody seems to think it’s pretty good,” Brumbaugh said. “I’ve talked to a half-dozen folks and heard good things about it.”

Romer said he’s talked to other folks who have been impressed with what they’ve seen.

Chris Neuswanger, a longtime critic of Vail Health, said he thinks the One Valley plan could have “some value for a lot of people, but it isn’t for everybody.”

Neuswanger added that “it’s great we’re developing alternative approaches,” but added that the cost of local service isn’t something the One Valley plan addresses.

Romer said there’s been a lot of interest in the One Valley plan from other chambers and similar groups.

The Vail Valley Partnership in March will host a meeting of chambers of commerce from around the state. Romer said many of those groups are coming to learn more about the One Valley plan.

“We could be the group that helps prompt this movement around the state, which is pretty cool,” Romer said. “Eagle County is really a leader in this.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.