Nation’s most expensive healthcare region may see relief


[dropcap]C[/dropcap]olorado’s Division of Insurance announced today that it’s making moves to lower mountain-dwellers’ high premiums by pooling expensive regions into larger blocks that — hopefully — will allow for better insurance rates. This move follows a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation which found that insurance rates in Colorado “resort” communities were the highest in the nation. Many shoppers were unable to find plans for less than 30 percent of their income on the state’s health exchange.

“Consolidating the higher health cost regions into larger rating areas will spread the risks and the costs of providing health care more equitably over a larger population,” said Marguerite Salazar, Commissioner of Insurance, in a release.

Because insurers are allowed to set rates only by a consumer’s age, smoking habits and physical location, the plan to lump high-cost areas in with more moderate zones is expected to lower rates in communities like Breckenridge but may raise them in towns like Durango.

“This is the fairest way of addressing the issue and working toward stable premiums in all regions of the state,” said Salazar.

Senator Irene Aguilar, D-Denver, who chairs a Health and Human Services committee at the state capitol and carried a bill this session to investigate healthcare costs in the state, said the plan was a good start.

“I think we have more work to do to increase the number of providers in these areas so we can engage market competition forces,” she added, noting that Kaiser Permanente’s decision to expand their coverage west along the I-70 corridor should be a big help.

Doctor shortages in rural Colorado are a critical issue when it comes to healthcare costs. Right now, for example, areas of the eastern plains struggle with a doctor-patient ratio of 1:5000, the same ratio Afghanistan had in 2007.  The Colorado Independent recently explored the various factors that make rural healthcare so expensive, and some possible solutions, in a feature you can read here.


[Photo by Snow Snow]


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