State insurance overseers coming to Glenwood to discuss ‘resort zone’ rating |

State insurance overseers coming to Glenwood to discuss ‘resort zone’ rating

John Colson

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Colorado’s insurance oversight commission is inviting area residents to a meeting on Wednesday, from 6-7 p.m. in the Devereux Ballroom at the Hotel Colorado, to talk about the state’s “geographic rating system” that grouped Garfield County with three wealthier neighboring counties — the ski-resort locales of Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties — in terms of health-insurance premiums.

State insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar and other officials of the Colorado Division of Insurance will be at the meeting, according to an announcement issued on Monday, in order to hear directly from consumers how they feel about the state’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.

A primary goal of the meeting, according to the announcement, will be to answer the question, “Why does geography affect your health insurance premiums?” The question has come up frequently in Garfield County since the ACA got its rocky start in October.

Colorado opted to bypass insurance regulation guidelines suggested by the federal managers of the ACA, and instead set up its own system for applying the new law to the health insurance industry in the state.

The idea behind the ACA was to establish zones based on health-care costs, with urban areas in one type of zone and rural areas in another, as a way of equalizing the costs of health insurance on a broad, statewide basis.

In Colorado, however, then-state insurance commissioner Jim Riesberg set up a system with three types of zones — the metropolitan areas, the rural areas, and a special “resort” area that encompasses Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties. In the resort zone, premiums are up to twice as costly as in other parts of the state.

The issue has sparked considerable ire in Garfield County, at least, as local residents learned that they would be paying such high insurance premiums.

Critics of the zone system complain that, despite the fact that Mesa County’s economy is similar to that of Garfield County, the residents of Garfield County will be forced to pay premiums typically assessed in wealthier communities.

Insurance commissioner Salazar maintains that the rating areas have been in place in Colorado for years, long before the ACA, and that residents are shocked mainly because they never knew it before. She stated in a Nov. 9 opinion piece in the Post Independent that the reason for differing premium costs is the fact that health-care costs are more expensive in resort areas.

Salazar also committed her agency to reviewing the entire health-care question as it relates to the ACA and the rating zones, next year in time to affect premiums for 2015.

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