Local legislators: Support plans to lower rural health insurance costs in Colorado (column) | VailDaily.com

Local legislators: Support plans to lower rural health insurance costs in Colorado (column)

Kerry Donovan and Dylan Roberts
Valley Voices

Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.

We read with interest Chris Romer's letter to the state's Commissioner of Insurance that was published in the Vail Daily on Friday, June 22, titled "Collaboration is key in lowering rural health care costs" and write today to express our support for the concept of a local health insurance option to support Eagle County businesses and their employees.

As your elected officials to the State Legislature, both of us are acutely aware of the problem of high health insurance costs in our county and region. We hear from Eagle County residents constantly about their frustration with the rising costs of insurance.

Given that Eagle County and the surrounding mountain counties are subject to some of the highest health insurance premiums in the state and the country, that frustration is completely justified. The Vail Valley Partnership's plan to create a health insurance co-op is a local and market-based solution that will bring much-needed competition to our region.

As the state legislators that represent Eagle County, we have both been very eager to be the lead sponsors of several bills at the Capitol that would alleviate and attempt to fix the problem of health insurance costs and regional disparity.

In particular, we were especially proud to carry a bill in the 2018 session that would have set the wheels in motion for a local solution just like the Vail Valley Partnership is proposing. That bill, HB18-1384, instructed the Division of Insurance to study how to get this co-op plan up and running by February 2019, as well as two other plans to increase insurance competition: a Medicaid buy-in option and a public-private partnership insurance plan.

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These concepts have broad support across the political spectrum, especially on the Western Slope, where insurance hikes hit everyone, regardless of political party. That is why our bill to bring more insurance options had bipartisan sponsorship in both chambers and passed the full House of Representatives with a large bipartisan vote. Unfortunately, when it went over to the Colorado Senate, a five-member Republican-controlled committee defeated it on a 3-2, party-line vote.

You can count on us to continue to make the goal of reducing health insurance costs a top priority when the legislature reconvenes in January. We strongly believe HB1384 created options to get us on the right path, and we look forward to pursuing that concept again.

However, in the absence of legislative action, we applaud and support local efforts such as the one being led by the Vail Valley Partnership and hope our state government will, too. Its idea is innovative, well-reasoned and a practical solution to this problem. It is working in other states, and it is time for Colorado to adopt this model.

As Romer stated, "Local providers are willing to work with local partners to provide local solutions," and we call on the Division of Insurance and other relevant state agencies to work with the Vail Valley Partnership and other local efforts across the state to allow this to happen.

Too many families in Eagle County are struggling to make a living here because of the lack of competition in the health insurance market.

We can and must do something to change that.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan represents Senate District 5. State Rep. Dylan Roberts represents House District 26.