Editor’s note: “Bringing It Home” runs weekends in The Aspen Times and focuses on state, national or international issues that have ties to or impacts on the Roaring Fork Valley.
Federal law requires that residents have an eligible health insurance plan by Jan. 1 or pay a penalty, and Coloradans had until Friday to enroll online for coverage provided under the Affordable Care Act that would be effective by that date.
Residents of Pitkin County can expect to pay as much as double what an urban dweller will pay for the same plan, according to examples on the Connect for Health Colorado website. However, for some young restaurant and ski-industry workers in Aspen, the coverage options provided through the exchange are better than what they’ve had in the past.
K.T. Sharkey, 29, is a full-time employee at an Aspen restaurant. She worked with an insurance broker who helped her find out that she qualified for some subsidies. Sharkey’s copays on doctor visits also will be lower, and her insurance will cover more preventive care than plans she’s had in the past.
“I personally am going to save a lot of money on my health coverage,” Sharkey said.
Sharkey never wanted to go without health insurance but said it’s uncommon for Aspen restaurant workers to have a coverage option through their employers. The options available to her now are much more affordable than what she had to choose from before, she said.
“I never wanted to live without insurance because if something does happen to you, it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars” in out-of-pocket costs, Sharkey said. “It’s nice to be able to afford health care that’s not just going to fix a broken leg.”
When asked if it seemed unfair to pay more than residents of the Front Range, Sharkey said that’s “the way it’s always been, and so that’s the way it’s always going to be. ... It’s a lot better than what it was for me, so I can’t complain.”
Josh Ganz, 31, is a snowboarding coach at the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Ganz has enrolled in a low-cost, high-deductible plan that he says is about $200 cheaper per month than plans he considered in the past.
Ganz had insurance through the Gap clothing store when he first moved to Aspen but hasn’t had it for a few years. He considered buying a plan about a year ago, but because he had had a surgery within the past 12 months, the premiums he was offered tripled, he said.
“I think it’s important for me to have it,” Ganz said. “It’s just always been incredibly expensive.”
Ganz enrolled just before the deadline and said he experienced some delay with the website due to the high volume of traffic this week. The enrollment deadline was extended from Monday to Friday because of a record number of website visitors leading up to it, the Connect for Health Colorado website said.
Insurance plan prices depend on where an applicant lives, their age, how many people will be covered by the plan and whether they use tobacco products, according to the website. Carriers offering individual and family plans in Pitkin County include Access Health Colorado, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield/HMO Colorado, Colorado HealthOP and Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
Although the deadline for coverage effective Jan. 1 has passed, open enrollment continues until March 31. The next deadline is Jan. 15 for coverage that takes effect Feb. 1.