Garfield County offers bill for single state insurance area
Garfield County officials are forwarding a proposed bill to be introduced in the waning weeks of the Colorado legislative session that would establish a single, statewide health insurance rating area instead of the current zoned structure that lumped the county into the more-expensive resort rating area.
State Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, said it’s one he’s willing to consider carrying as a late bill in the state House of Representatives, although time is running out before the session ends in early May.
“I’ve been trying to follow the lead of the county commissioners, and appreciate their work on this,” Rankin said Tuesday. “I’m 100 percent for it, and will sponsor anything that will help correct this bad situation.
“The real solution is to have one statewide rate, and that’s what we ought to be pushing for,” he said.
Garfield County commissioners on Monday, while reviewing the language of the proposed legislation, indicated that they have been in touch with state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, who may be willing to carry the bill in the Senate.
Schwartz was not available for comment Tuesday, but a staffer in her Denver office indicated that the senator would like to introduce, or at least sponsor with another of her colleagues, some type of health insurance bill yet this session.
The legislative remedy being proposed by Garfield County would direct the state insurance commissioner to default to a single statewide geographic rating area for health insurance under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
So-called metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and groupings of similar rural counties could be established, as provided by federal law, but only if the state commissioner “determines and concludes by clear and convincing evidence that … another geographical rating area is substantially preferable for state residents” in those areas, according to the proposal being put forth by Garfield County.
“In establishing that evidence, the commissioner shall employ a publicly-transparent and recorded procedure to take testimony from all interested parties,” the county’s proposal states.
That was one of the shortfalls in establishing the current rating areas, which county commissioners have objected to, because it puts Garfield County in with the pricier resort counties of Pitkin, Eagle and Summit.
Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar has indicated that the rating areas will remain unchanged until at least 2016, unless a reasonable alternative is offered.
“This is what we came up with,” Garfield Commission Chairman John Martin said. “This is much better than a Band-Aid fix and is something that actually levels the playing field and reduces costs across the state.
“We can’t wait until 2016,” he said. “We need to find relief for folks that are losing their insurance and can’t pay for new insurance.”
Rankin said he believes the state can still tell the federal government “we made a mistake” in setting up the rating zones, “so let’s fix it.”
County commissioners won an ally in a sometimes adversary, political activist Anita Sherman of Glenwood Springs, on Monday, who applauded the commissioners for pressing the issue on the state level.
“I would like to thank you for taking the time to do what the state suggested; if you don’t like it, propose something different,” Sherman said during the Monday discussion.
“This is not a partisan situation,” she said. “It’s a basic economic dollars and cents issue.”
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