U.S. Rep. Jared Polis seeks readjustment of rating area boundaries
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — Access to health insurance may become a reality for many under the Affordable Care Act, but other residents of the Colorado high country are frustrated by the changes, which could result in higher premiums and less choice for people who are self-employed.
“It’s a huge problem for Summit County … it’s a major barrier to implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Summit County,” said Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat who represents Summit County.
“Summit County has one of the highest rates of uninsured residents in the State,” said Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic. “Many people have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families. It is worrisome and disappointing that rates in our area may be priced beyond our residents’ ability to pay. We are hopeful that something can be done to make products on the exchange more accessible,” Vaine said.
According to Polis, the problem is that Summit County has been included in an “inappropriate” rating area, together with Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties. As a result, a 40-year-old in Summit County would pay a minimum of $427.80 a month for a bronze level plan from the Rocky Mountain Health Plans Statewide PPO, compared to $339.18 for the same plan in Boulder and $296.41 for Denver. More information on the breakdown is available at this state website.
Polis had planned on discussing the issue with state insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar this week, but the conversation has been delayed until next week, according to Brian Branton, the congressman’s chief of staff.
For now, Polis said he’s not sure why exactly Summit was lumped in with those counties, but said it might take some doing to get the map changes.
“For the 1st year we’re probably stuck with these regions,” he said.
“it looks to me to be arbitrary, I would argue, before any audience, that Summit has more in common with Clear Creek and Jefferson counties … there might be reasons it’s more expensive there, but Summit shouldn’t be punished,” he said, adding that people who have health insurance benefits through their employers have less to worry about.
Polis wrote to Salazar, urging her to address the increase in premiums Summit County residents are paying for their health insurance compared with residents of neighboring counties:
“Many residents of Summit County are suddenly finding themselves facing much higher health insurance premiums than their neighbors in Clear Creek and Jefferson Counties,” he wrote. “This disparity not only makes no sense but threatens to undermine the Affordable Care Act’s goal of increasing access to high-quality, affordable health care. Summit County residents already face a high cost of living and many may choose to forgo health insurance if these rates remain so high. I urge the Division of Insurance to revisit the approved rates, and strongly suggest that Summit County be moved to the same rating area as Clear Creek and Jefferson counties, which more accurately represents the costs and experiences of Summit County’s full-time residents and could reduce rates by a third.”
“Congressman Polis understands the affordability challenges we face in Colorado mountain resort communities,” Summit County commissioners Karn Stiegelmeier, Thomas Davidson, and Dan Gibbs. “He has been a champion for health care access in Summit County, with his continuing support of our Community Care Clinic and now, responding to this affordability issue just as many residents are signing up for health care insurance through Connect for Health Colorado,” they wrote.
“High insurance rates will make it more likely that Coloradans living in Summit County will choose to forgo coverage entirely, leading to an increase in health care costs for the state but more importantly threatening the health and welfare of these same residents and their families,” Polis said.
Representative Polis requested Colorado’s Division of Insurance to explain the discrepancy and to shift Summit County in the same Rating Area of Clear Creek and Jefferson counties, which would more accurately represent the health insurance costs facing residents of Summit.
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