Affordable health care in the high country

Kerry Donovan
Guest column
Kerry Donovan
Daryl Wilson |

No matter your background or your ZIP code, every Coloradan deserves a fair shot at affording a quality health care plan. Unfortunately, those of us in the high country are all too aware of the ever-rising cost of health care. While it is true our state’s total uninsured rate has dropped dramatically in recent years, the reality is that there are major regional disparities when it comes to how much Coloradans pay for individual health-insurance plans.

That’s why I am proud to sponsor HB16-1336: bipartisan legislation that will commission a study on what the cost-drivers of individual health plans are so that I can get to work with my fellow lawmakers in finding common-sense solutions to this problem. My co-sponsors — Sen. Ellen Roberts, Rep. Millie Hamner and Rep. Bob Rankin — and I carried the bill so that the state Legislature has the tools it needs to create a plan for rural Colorado that makes the Affordable Care Act work better for our families than it currently does.

And it must work better. For our part of the state, the situation is dire. The Western Slope and Central Mountains were ranked as the most expensive health care market in the entire country. Our communities are being priced out of quality health care because many cannot afford these rising costs, and we have few answers for why such wide regional disparities exist when the high country is compared with the metro area.

Currently in Colorado, there are nine different geographic rating areas that health-insurance companies selling individual plans use to set premiums. While lawmakers and the Division of Insurance have worked hard to address the inequities that resulted from the initial drawing of the geographic rating areas, seven of these individual geographic studies focus on more metropolitan areas of the state.

The region encompassing much of Western Colorado has seen sharp increases on already high prices for similar plans that cost significantly less in urban areas. This is simply not fair to our families, and our communities deserve more.

In order to find a solution that brings affordable health care to our communities, Colorado must invest in data that shows exactly what is driving the regional disparities for health care premiums.

No region should be priced out of quality health care simply because of its geography. By creating a better understanding of insurance costs throughout the state through the passage of House Bill 16-1336, Colorado can take a meaningful step toward the ultimate goal of affordable and accessible health for all of Colorado.

Kerry Donovan is the state senator for Senate District 5, which includes Chaffee, Delta, Eagle, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Lake and Pitkin counties.