State Sen. Gail Schwartz says she is willing to help find a solution to the excessively high health insurance rates that resulted in the four-county resort region when Colorado’s insurance rating areas were set up last year.
Whether that will require some type of legislation to be passed in the final weeks of the state General Assembly remains to be seen, she said.
And a proposed bill being put forward by Garfield County commissioners directing the state to default to a single, statewide insurance rating area may or may not be part of the solution, Schwartz said Thursday.
“I do think Garfield County in particular has been hurt by this, and there is an opportunity to create a solution,” said Schwartz, whose Senate District 5 does not include Garfield County but does cover two of the other affected counties in the resort rating area, Pitkin and Eagle.
“If we’re going to do something to modify the rate regions, we must act quickly to achieve the equity we’re seeking,” she said.
In any case, something needs to be put in motion this spring in order to bring relief to those that are being hit with higher insurance rates sooner rather than later.
“We’ve thought this was an 18-month problem,” Schwartz said of representations by Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar that the rating areas would not be revisited until next year and likely not adjusted until 2016.
“It could be a six-month problem if we approach it the right way,” she said.
The Snowmass Village Democrat said she has already spoken with Republican state Rep. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, as well as Garfield County Commissioner John Martin, about the matter.
She was also planning to touch base Thursday with state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, whose Senate District 8 does include Garfield County. And on Wednesday she met with “several members” of the governor’s office discussing possible solutions.
“We need to make sure we get a result that works for our region and these four counties,” Schwartz said.
Garfield County’s suggested statewide geographic rate area is something that would address the high end of the state’s rate structure, she said.
“But we want to make sure we don’t create significant impacts on other rate areas by doing that,” she said.
The county’s proposal would direct the state insurance commissioner to implement a statewide rating system for health insurance under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, unless “convincing evidence” supports the creation of metropolitan or rural rating areas.
Rankin said earlier this week he supports the county’s proposal.
Schwartz said that if something short of legislation can be done to bring relief to the most-impacted counties, or to individual ratepayers, that may end up being the preferred route.
“If we can, we don’t want the process of passing legislation to slow us down,” she said.
A possible interim solution Schwartz said she has also looked into would be to provide some type of state subsidy to help cover the gap of higher insurance rates in the more expensive rating areas. If legislation turns out to be the best route, a late bill would have to be introduced and passed by the time the state Legislature adjourns on May 7.