Colorado House to consider one region for health insurance |

Colorado House to consider one region for health insurance

Mollie Rice fills a prescription at Carl's Pharmacy Wednesday.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Each month, Eagle County resident Chris Neuswanger shells out an additional $444 more to pay for his health insurance than he did two years ago.

Neuswanger said his deductible also has spiked $4,000 and that he has far less benefits.

Following the Affordable Care Act — which determines insurance premiums by geography, age and type of plan — Pitkin, Eagle, Summit and Garfield counties were lumped into one region.

Today, the Colorado House of Representatives will hear a bill that proposes the state commissioner of insurance study the feasibility of a single geographic rating area for individual policy premiums across Colorado.

One of the nine geographic regions across the state, the mountain resort area pays some of the highest health care costs in the nation.

This year alone, the cost of an individual health care plan in the resort area region increased nearly 26 percent on average, according to Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock.

Many residents and elected officials of the region’s counties have expressed their support of the bill going before the House.

This region is “home to the highest insurance costs in the country,” Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards wrote in a letter on behalf of the county. “This is consistent with the area having one of the highest cost of living in the state and nation, housing, transportation and groceries.”

Despite having the highest insurance premiums in the state, the average income for workers in Pitkin County is 10 percent below the state average of $53,401, according to the county

“When people look at Pitkin County and Aspen, I think they look at it and say, well that’s OK because there’s a lot of wealth in those places,” Peacock said. “But the fact is, for the average wage earner, those wages for jobs are well below the state and national averages.”

Neuswanger, who has spoken out on the issue of health care in Colorado mountain communities for some time, launched a petition Saturday in an effort to rally support of the bill that will be heard today. It had 711 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

“I just think it’s flat out unfair,” said Neuswanger, adding that he’s not the only one who’s been “slammed hard” by his insurance provider.

Neuswanger said he spoke Monday with a mother who said the least expensive insurance she could find for her family of four cost $2,600.

“How does a middle-class family afford that?” he said. “They can’t, and more often than not they’re uninsured.”

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