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Grand Junction health insurance provider changes name, offers more plan options

Donna Daniels

As health insurance premiums continue to soar, some insurance companies are changing their product line in an effort to lower premium costs and keep their customers.

Last month, Grand Junction-based Rocky Mountain HMO, one of the largest insurance providers in western Colorado, changed its name to Rocky Mountain Health Plans. The organization is now offering a more broad array of health insurance plans.

Besides its original HMO (health maintenance organization), Rocky Mountain now offers preferred provider plans and nontraditional HMO plans, said president and chief executive officer John Hopkins.

“As we have seen over the past two to three years, the market is changing. Employers are looking for lower cost premiums. With a PPO they can use a deductible and that will bring the premiums down,” he said.

A PPO, preferred provider organization, is a network of doctors and other health care providers who have signed a service contract with the insurance provider.

Employers want more flexible plans that allow workers to make their own choices about coverage, Hopkins added.

Premiums have skyrocketed even higher than the statewide average in western Colorado. Insurance companies claimed it has not been cost effective to provide insurance coverage to rural areas with relatively low populations.

Valley View Hospital dropped Rocky Mountain for almost a year and only renewed the contract in November.

Many insurance companies were driven out of Colorado in 1994 when the state Legislature began to require them to charge the same premiums for everyone no matter what. In other states, premiums are higher for people with chronic illness.

But at least two companies, including Rocky Mountain, continue to offer health insurance coverage in western Colorado.

In January, ChoiceCare Network, a preferred provider organization owned by Humana Inc., renegotiated a direct contract with Roaring Fork Valley physician groups and Valley View Hospital, cutting out Sloan’s Lake Managed Care as a middle-man administrator.

Glenwood Springs health insurance agent Chuck Campagna, of Campagna Group Inc., a Glenwood Springs health insurance and financial services company, applauded Rocky Mountain’s new products. They would allow Rocky Mountain to remain viable in western Colorado and respond to employers who are having a hard time underwriting employees’ health benefits.

“This shows Rocky Mountain’s intent to work with the various economic levels in the community,” Campagna said.

Also in a move to rein in health insurance premiums, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill recently that provides for higher insurance deductibles.

It also allows insurance companies to cross state boundaries to create adequate health care networks.

And U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, added to the effort by including provisions for rural hospitals in a broader health care bill now before Congress.

The Medicare Rural Access Preservation Act, introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives, increases Medicare reimbursement levels for sole community hospitals, home health care agencies and home hospice providers.


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