The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association is lending its support to Garfield County in its efforts to convince state insurance officials to reassign the county to a health insurance rating area that better reflects its rural character.
In doing so, the chamber is encouraging local businesses, individuals and other organizations to contact state and federal legislators and government officials to help make that case.
Garfield County commissioners have objected to the county’s inclusion in the resort rating area for health insurance under Colorado’s health insurance exchange along with Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties.
The new geographical rating system serves as the state’s way of implementing the federal Affordable Care Act.
Because of the higher collective cost of health care in the four-county region, the resort area ended up with some of the highest rates for individual and employer health insurance, not only in Colorado but in the entire country.
Garfield County argues, however, that its health care costs are actually much lower than the other resort counties, and are even lower than the state average or in the Denver metro area.
The county is gathering information to present to state Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar showing that Garfield County should be in another grouping. Garfield County is also threatening to sue the state if need be, if the change isn’t made soon.
According to a statement prepared by the Glenwood Chamber in support of the county, “If the four counties in the resort area are grouped with the rest of the rural counties in the state, young and healthy residents will elect to buy insurance and will ultimately help to keep rates in check.
“High cost counties like Jackson, Mineral, Baca, Las Animas, Costilla, Logan, Chaffee, Phillips, Kit Carson, Lake, Moffat, Huerfano and Routt are included in geographic areas with lower premiums while the ‘resort counties’ are isolated and given high premiums,” the chamber’s statement adds.
“There is a short window where the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will accept changes from the state of Colorado to the geographic areas assigned for 2014,” chamber president and CEO Marianne Virgili said in a news release.
Salazar has indicated that, unless compelling information is presented by March 15, the rating zones will stand at least until next year, and likely until 2016 after a comprehensive review of health care costs across the state can be completed.
According to the chamber and county officials, however, the state could elect to accept the so-called “federal default areas,” in which all rural counties in Colorado would be grouped together.
“The Glenwood Springs Chamber is encouraging businesses to contact elected officials to act now to make sure this change is made and to end our ridiculously high premiums,” Virgili said. “We are also reaching out to chambers from the other ‘resort counties’ to launch similar campaigns.”