Pitco mulls health care changes | AspenTimes.com

Pitco mulls health care changes

Pitkin County officials want to investigate a radical way of providing universal health insurance for their residents.

County Commissioner Shelly Roy proposed the idea last week of seeking voter approval for a property tax mill levy to pay health insurance premiums for county residents who want to participate.

“The original miners did it,” Roy said. “They all paid $5 and it worked.”

She raised the idea in a joint meeting with the Garfield County commissioners. Their meeting was held, oddly enough, in Eagle County.

Roy’s proposal popped up when officials from the two governments discussed what they were doing to offer health care coverage for their own employees. Pitkin and Garfield counties are among the largest members of a county government insurance pool, but Pitkin County is considering a change.

Pitkin County has hired a broker to shop for the best deal among insurance carriers, according to manager Hillary Smith. The county employs about 400 people, including workers at the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

While discussing the difficulty of finding affordable health care coverage, Roy suggested the counties launch a study to determine if it is feasible to fund a system for a universal coverage plan for county residents.

Her concept wasn’t discussed in detail. In theory, a property tax would raise revenues to underwrite health care coverage, possibly a self-insured program.

Smith said she felt interest would be high because health care coverage is such an important issue to the aging work force.

Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt said she supported the idea and its further study. She said she felt Garfield County residents would support such a plan in the long run because affordable insurance is so tough to find.

But Garfield County Commissioner Larry McGowan was against the idea because he didn’t feel the county government should be in the insurance administration business.

While Garfield County’s level of interest was unclear, the Pitkin County commissioners decided to ask Colin Laird, director of an organization called Healthy Mountain Communities, to explore the possibilities of the program and report back to them.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com

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