Dems join in call for Garfield County removal from resort health insurance zone
Ryan Summerlin March 31, 2014
Garfield County Democrats are joining the all-Republican Board of County Commissioners in requesting that state officials remove the county from the more-expensive resort rating area for health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act in Colorado.
The ACA “is a vital tool for the improvement of the health, safety and well-being of all Garfield County residents,” and the new federal law commonly referred to as Obamacare “offers all Americans the chance to obtain ‘affordable’ insurance,” the local Democratic Party states in its 2014 platform.
“However, in the case of Garfield County the Colorado Insurance Commission ratings place health insurance premiums in an unfairly high bracket,” the platform, which was formally adopted at the March 15 county party assembly, states.
In order for health insurance premiums in Garfield County to be lowered, the state should redesignate the county away from the “discriminatory” resort rating area, the platform statement concludes.
“This is one area where I can’t disagree with the county commissioners,” said Michael Sullivan, the Democrats’ nominee to challenge incumbent Republican Commissioner Tom Jankovsky in the November election.
“It is way too expensive here under that [rate] system,” he said. “The Affordable Care Act does work, but lumping Garfield County and Glenwood Springs in with the resort communities puts it out of reach for most people here.”
Garfield commissioners have objected to the county being lumped in with Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties for the purpose of establishing health insurance rates based on the collective cost of health care in the region. The designation resulted in the highest insurance premiums in Colorado, and reportedly in the entire United States.
The county is preparing a lawsuit against the Colorado Division of Insurance and state Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar to force the issue, unless a decision is made soon to redesignate Garfield County, if not for this year then for 2015.
Salazar has maintained that changes are not likely to be made to the rating system until at least 2016, after a comprehensive review of health care costs across the state can be completed.
In another public health-related position statement, county Democrats also propose that the county commissioners finish the Battlement Mesa Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that the county funded in 2010 but scuttled before a final report was issued in 2011, saying the study had become too politically charged.
“I was very surprised that they canceled that and definitely did not agree with that decision,” Sullivan said of the effort, which was aimed at determining the public health impacts associated with natural gas drilling in the Battlement Mesa area.
“My belief is that we should get as much information from as many sources as we possibly can” regarding the potential health impacts from natural gas development, Sullivan said.
Although the county pulled its support and funding for the project, the Colorado School of Public Health, which was preparing the study for the county, continued the effort on its own. In a report issued in the spring of 2012, the study’s lead researcher, Lisa McKenzie, warned of health risks from air pollution to those living within a half mile of gas drilling pads, especially during the hydraulic fracturing process.
“Garfield County Democrats resolve that our county government takes all necessary steps to protect the citizens of this county from the harmful effect of oil and gas extraction,” the party’s platform states.
Other topics and issues of concern covered in the Democrats’ local platform relate to economic and energy policy, conservation, climate change, support for immigration reform and gay marriage, and a call for state legislation that would allow Garfield County to expand its board of county commissioners from three members to five.