GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — What is being billed as a “community input session” Friday on health insurance rates in Garfield County invites what county commissioners are hoping will be a broad spectrum of citizens to share their experiences under Colorado’s new insurance exchange.
The commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on the issue as part of a special meeting starting at 9 a.m. Friday at the Garfield County Administration Building in downtown Glenwood Springs, 108 Eighth St., Room 100, to hear from citizens, business owners and insurance professionals, and to discuss “emergency measures” to address the issue.
“All of us have received numerous different e-mails from constituents complaining about the new health insurance rates in Garfield County, and giving examples of how they are paying more under the new system,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said of he and fellow commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson.
The commissioners themselves have been critical of a Colorado Division of Insurance decision last year to place Garfield County in the state’s Resort Rating Area along with Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties.
That has resulted in some of the highest insurance premium rates in the country under the federal Affordable Care Act, according to recent reports.
“Mostly it’s been individuals, but we are starting to hear from some businesses now who are saying they can’t afford health insurance with these rates,” Jankovsky said.
“We also want to hear from people who believe health care is working for them, if that’s the case,” he added. “I’m sure there are people who have pre-existing conditions who are happy that they now have health insurance, or who were able to obtain subsidized insurance. We are happy to hear from them.”
But the vast majority of concerns being expressed by Garfield County residents, including at a recent meeting with Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar in El Jebel, are to the contrary, he said.
At that meeting, Salazar said that any changes to the state’s 11 geographic rate zones are not likely until at least 2016, after a comprehensive re-analysis of health care costs in the state, which was the basis for establishing the rating zones in the first place.
At another recent meeting which Jankovsky attended, he said Salazar indicated that, unless new information is available by March 15, there will not be any changes in the rating zones for 2015.
“That is extremely concerning for me, because it puts us in a defensive position,” Jankovsky said. “The other big concern I have is that it looks like we are being lumped in with these other three counties to help keep their rates down.”
Garfield County recently announced plans to sue the state Division of Insurance over its inclusion in the resort rate zone. The county argues that, while the four counties combined may have the highest health care costs in the state, taken alone Garfield County is more in line with neighboring Mesa County and other counties with similar demographics.
Summit County commissioners also recently sent a letter to Salazar and other state and federal officials requesting that the rate zones be reviewed before next year.