Eagle County Commissioners: Rest insured, reinsurance will lower health care costs | VailDaily.com

Eagle County Commissioners: Rest insured, reinsurance will lower health care costs

Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jeanne McQueeney and Matt Scherr
Valley Voices

When was the last time you heard some good news about health care costs?

Don’t worry — you’re not dreaming. Thanks to Gov. Jared Polis, Sens. Kerry Donovan and Bob Rankin, and Reps. Julie McCluskie and Janice Rich, it’s actually happening.

Eagle County has some of the highest health care costs not only in the state but in the entire nation. And given that Americans pay more than any other developed country for health care, Eagle County residents are paying some of the highest health care costs in the entire world.

In our time as commissioners, the high cost of health care has been the top issue that we hear about from families across our county. It’s pricing families out of the area and eating up more and more of the family budget for folks who can afford to stay.

We have pleaded with our representatives in Denver to do something about the high cost of health care, including making the trek to testify at the state Capitol.

Thankfully, help is on the way.

Thanks to a new program called reinsurance passed by the Colorado legislature, signed by Polis, and approved by the federal government,  premiums for families who buy their own health insurance are set to go down by an average of 18.2% statewide, and an average of 29.1% in mountain communities like those in Eagle County.

Reinsurance is a tried-and-true approach that has worked in states like Alaska, Oregon, Minnesota, Maine and New Jersey.

Without reinsurance, a small number of high-cost patients end up driving up premiums for everyone else. By instituting a reinsurance pool, as Colorado did this year, health insurers can protect themselves from the losses incurred by those high-cost cases, bringing down premiums in a big way.

Reinsurance is set to save a family of four buying their own insurance an average of $748 per month — a tremendous amount of money that families can use on rent, mortgage, groceries, utilities, savings for college or retirement, a ski pass, or anything else that they need.

And when families have more money to put back into our local economy, the economy grows and everyone wins.

With savings from reinsurance, far fewer Eagle County residents will have to make tough decisions like whether to go without insurance or to move away from our beautiful county.

And even though only about 8 percent of Coloradans buy their own health insurance on the individual market, reinsurance will help all Coloradans in the long run.

By reducing premiums for the individual market, more people who aren’t covered by their employer will choose to purchase insurance. And when more people are covered, there will be less cost for uncompensated care that gets passed onto the rest of us through higher premiums.

Furthermore, lower prices on the individual market will put pressure on insurers with employer-based plans to lower their premiums as well.

Finally, this is just one part of the state’s bipartisan agenda to tackle the high health care costs in Eagle County and across our state.

This year, with input from rural officials like us, Polis and our representatives in the legislature enacted legislation to bolster consumer protections to reduce surprise bills when patients are treated by providers outside their networks.

They passed a landmark hospital transparency bill to empower lawmakers and consumers to identify and address the key drivers of sky-high hospital bills.

They capped insulin prices at $100 out of pocket per month, and passed a prescription drug importation plan — currently awaiting federal approval — to save money on lifesaving medicine.

They also laid the groundwork for a state-based insurance option to increase competition and provide Coloradans with more freedom and choice when selecting a health care plan.

We’ve all heard lots of talk about reducing health care costs.

This time, it’s actually happening. And for families in Eagle County who have been crying out for relief, it’s not a moment too soon.

Kathy Chandler-Henry, Jeanne McQueeney and Matt Scherr are Eagle County commissioners.