Peak Health CEO’s departure shouldn’t stall Routt County’s ongoing effort
An already tight timeline still could hinder the ability to offer plans on the individual market next year.
The CEO of Peak Health Alliance is stepping down to take a job with a New York-based health collaborative, but officials say the move shouldn’t derail Routt County’s effort to offer more affordable health insurance plans next year.
Claire Brockbank has been with Peak since the beginning, helping start the health care purchasing cooperative in Summit County in 2018 and lead expansion into seven Colorado counties since.
Routt County has been the newest effort, and talks with UCHealth about a new fee schedule — a pivotal step to Peak’s process — started last month, with the local steering committee guiding the effort receiving its first proposal on Monday, March 21.
On Monday, members of the steering committee told county commissioners that proposal was disappointing, but that talks would continue. After Peak made an announcement of her departure on Thursday, March 24, Brockbank said she would remain involved.
“We are in the midst of a negotiation and that is not when you switch horses,” Brockbank said.
Commissioner Beth Melton, who was the catalyst to starting the local effort last fall, said the change itself shouldn’t hinder the ability to offer plans for the start of next year. That said, there are other hurdles.
“We’re still on the same path we have been,” Melton said. “(Commissioners expressed) concerns about the tight timeline for a 2023 product for the individual market. That is still the same.”
Brockbank is taking a role with 32BJ Health Fund. It provides health benefits to about 200,000 members of the 32BJ Chapter of Service Employees International Union, which represents low-wage workers like window washers and janitors primarily in New York City.
She said the fund reached out to her because what they paid for benefits was making it harder to increase wages for workers. Brockbank said they took a similar approach to looking at claims data that Peak does, and that revealed hospitals in New York City were driving costs.
“They want to essentially create a pooled purchasing effort to negotiate with the hospitals,” she said. “One of their hospitals in New York gave their CEO a $6 million bonus last year during COVID. That’s crazy.”
While Brockbank will remain involved in Routt County’s effort, Peak’s board of directors is expected to install an interim CEO quickly, potentially by the end of the week, Brockbank said.
Brockbank said she is slated to start the new role based in New York on June 1, and that she is committed to helping the Routt County steering committee work out a fee schedule with UCHealth and find a carrier to offer plans.
“Those are the two big milestones that I will stay committed to help Routt achieve,” Brockbank said.
The timeline for when everything needs to be complete isn’t obvious, as deadlines can vary based on insurance carriers internal protocols, and a carrier for Routt County’s Peak-sponsored plans has not been identified yet. Before that can happen, Brockbank said they need to get a fee schedule from UCHealth.
Brockbank said that fee schedule is taken to potential carriers to see how the new deal can lower premiums. While hospitals are generally the single biggest cost, there are other costs through other providers, pharmacies and the carriers themselves that need to be considered.
Carriers generally have three deadlines, with preliminary rates due in April, secondary rates later in the spring and the final deadline in late June.
“Some carriers say it’s already too late,” Brockbank said.
Another factor is that providers and carriers are having to sift through some additional requirements in place this year because of the Colorado Option law passed by the legislature last year.
“The Colorado Option is going to be a great thing, but it has created a few challenges that maybe wouldn’t have been in place in other years,” Melton said.
Monday’s proposal from the hospital — which has not been shared publicly — likely wouldn’t make a compelling case to carriers that would offer lower premiums, Brockbank said.
Brockbank said there was a meeting scheduled with UCHealth representatives for Thursday, but the hospital network canceled it.
“This has dragged out a lot,” Brockbank said. “We do still think we have some time. It will be challenging, but the fat lady is not singing yet.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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