Vail Daily column: Frustrated with health care costs
September 28, 2016
Since the Colorado Senate adjourned, I have divided my time between working on the ranch and spending time with constituents. When I'm not delivering produce to local restaurants or visiting communities across the district, I'm thinking ahead to the 2017 legislative session and what I can focus on to best serve you.
I've heard from many of you about the rising costs of health care. The good news is in Colorado, our uninsured rate has been cut in half, and many people who were denied coverage have gained access to health care. The bad news is those of us outside the metro areas are seeing fewer insurance providers and higher health care costs. The lack of insurance providers and the cost of individual plans is of particular concern — I'm just as frustrated as you are.
Recently, the Division of Insurance announced they approved additional increases that could put many of us with individual plans in an even tougher spot. Coloradans with individual insurance plans will see premiums increases from 20 percent to more than 40 percent. This is unacceptable.
I carried a bipartisan bill to find out what exactly is driving the cost of individual health plans and if switching Colorado's geographic rating areas would help disperse the cost of health care for the high cost areas of the state.
The study found moving to a single geographic rating would result in lower prices for some areas, but it also found that a single geographic rating would increase the rates along the more populous Front Range. Additionally, spreading out cost does not get to the heart of what is really driving health care costs to go up and why those of us outside the metro areas pay so much more for individual plans.
The study also identified some health care services that cost much more in rural areas. Health care providers are charging more money for professional visits, inpatient admissions and outpatient visits than providers do along the Front Range. The study also highlighted that lab costs and imaging are more expensive for our communities when compared to other geographic areas.
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As a state we have made progress. No longer can citizens be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions, and no longer can women be denied care for being women. But, we have a lot more work to do. Right now, I am working hard with a group of leaders to come up with a set of solutions to address cost-drivers of health care by early December — just in time for the start of the 2017 legislative session. Your elected officials owe it to you to fight for lower rates by identifying exactly what is driving costs to be so high and what practical solutions we can work together on with hospitals and insurance companies to bring costs down.
Our Colorado quality of life is too dear for us to ignore this problem, and I am committed to finding ways to bring down the cost of health care. Affordable health care is one piece of the puzzle to the Colorado way of life, alongside promoting economic development, protecting our water, improving our roads and highways and ensuring our public lands remain public.
It is a privilege to serve you in the state Capitol and, as always, I welcome your feedback and your ideas on how we can work together to make our community a better place.
Kerry Donovan is the state senator for Senate District 5. The district represents seven counties on the Western Slope and the Arkansas Valley, including Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.