Health care too costly
I write to express my increasingly urgent concern regarding the high cost of health insurance premiums for Rating Area 11. Not only have I heard from hundreds of constituents in Eagle and Summit counties regarding the ridiculous cost of health insurance, but it is beginning to affect this area’s reputation.
A recent article from The Fiscal Times named Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Garfield counties as the worst places to live in the country under Obamacare. I am sure you agree that this is not a reputation Colorado should garner.
While I am encouraged that the state Division of Insurance has at least acknowledged the disproportionately high costs of premiums my constituents in Rating Area 11 are being subjected to, I am dismayed that corrective action is not being considered until 2015.
As the Division of Insurance initiates its study of health care costs to review how and why premiums for similar plans differ so dramatically in each geographic area, I request that they include an advocate from Rating Area 11 in the group of study stakeholders. This will ensure the patients and families being affected by these disproportionately high premiums are being adequately represented.
I would also like to ask again that Summit and Eagle counties be placed with their neighboring counties — including Clear Creek, Gilpin and Jefferson — to better reflect their geography and demographics.
The area known as the “Resort Region” is facing health care costs totaling thousands of dollars a year more than neighboring areas. The Kaiser Family Foundation has even ranked the areas including Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield and Summit counties as the most expensive health care marketplace in the country.
While the Affordable Care Act was designed to provide millions with health care previously unavailable to them, as currently implemented, the act has had the opposite effect for residents of this region. This has disproportionately affected Latinos — 36.5 percent of those in Summit County are uninsured. That’s nearly 10 percentage points higher than the average rate of uninsured Latinos statewide.
In my conversations with constituents, I have learned of the terrible burden these high costs have placed on middle-class families. I spoke with a woman from Summit County whose previous plan did not meet the quality standards mandated by the Affordable Care Act, requiring her to scour the marketplace to find a new plan with similar benefits at a similar cost. Although she is being offered higher quality plans, they come at a price that appears to penalize her for making her home in Summit County and is much higher than her neighbors a few miles up the road in Clear Creek County. The thought of waiting until 2016 for lower health care costs has her worried that she will be forced to forego health coverage until then.
The Division of Insurance’s delay in addressing the high costs of premiums in Ratings Area 11 may prevent my constituents and many other middle-class families from taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the Affordable Care Act to secure an affordable and quality insurance plan for themselves and their families.
Addressing these concerns sooner rather than later, and ensuring that an advocate from Ratings Area 11 is represented within the Division of Insurance’s stakeholder group responsible for conducting a study of these expensive health care costs, ultimately will enable the division to offer more affordable quality health care plans to residents of these counties.
The prices for premiums in the rest of the district I represent comprise an excellent option for many families. I hope that the results of the study will be promptly followed by a plan to immediately address and replace the high costs of the current premiums being offered to middle-class families in Rating Area 11 with more affordable options.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, represents the eastern part of Eagle County in the U.S. House.