Routt County sees lower number in uninsured residents as health care debate continues |

Routt County sees lower number in uninsured residents as health care debate continues

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Following the open enrollment period ending on January 15, Connect for Health Colorado reports enrollments through their health insurance exchange are up 3% across the state, and net premiums are down 14%.

The average monthly premium for 2019 Routt County is $888.51. The average tax credit was $800.79, resulting in an average net premium for those qualifying for assistance of $87.73. The state average is $117, down from $136 in 2018.

The largest increases in enrollments were in rural counties, part of nonprofit organization’s strategic goal and big marketing push to improve access to coverage in the rural parts of the state, where premiums are the highest.

Seventy-six percent of the families and individuals who chose health insurance through the exchange qualified to receive financial assistance.

In Routt County, there were 1,824 medical enrollments in 2019, down slightly from 1,889 enrollments in 2018.

Statewide, 78% were returning customers, while 22% were new. The majority of enrollments in 2019 were people 55 and older.

In Routt County in 2017, the uninsured rate was 13.1%, according to the Colorado Health Access Survey, which is much better than 24.8% in 2013 but still double the state rate of 6.5%.

“We are happy that we are able to make health insurance affordable for so many people,” said Connect for Health Colorado CEO Kevin Patterson in a news release. “We know we have more work to do and are committed to expanding our impact as we work with policy makers, our stakeholders and our customers throughout the state.”

On a national level, the future of the Affordable Care Act, which funds the subsidies available through the exchange, remains uncertain. If President Trump and the Republicans have their way and repeal it, 19.9 million Americans could lose their coverage, increasing the number of uninsured by 65%, according to an estimate by the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center.

While a repeal is unlikely with Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the ACA could also get struck down, as the law’s individual mandate was ruled unconstitutional when the Justice Department sided with a federal judge in Texas in December.

Trump recently stated, “We will have a plan that is far better than Obamacare,” but details have yet to be revealed.

Republicans have had nearly a decade since the ACA was signed into law to design a plan of their own.

Major efforts are underway in Colorado to reduce the cost of health care, prescription drugs and insurance premiums for everyone — not just those who qualify for financial assistance.

According to the Colorado Health Institute, deductibles rose 65% between 2010 and 2017.

Premiums, as well as cost of care, are highest in the mountain region.

In March, the Colorado House of Representatives approved a bill aimed at establishing a public health insurance option for residents. The bill was approved by a bipartisan vote of 46-18. It now heads to the Senate.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts and Rep. Marc Catlin and seeks to create a new affordable and competitive public health care option available to families and individuals.

“The cost of health insurance, especially on the Western Slope, but all across Colorado continues to skyrocket. This bill is a reasoned, smart approach to try to bring competition to the marketplace to bring down the cost of health care,” Roberts said in a news release. “This bipartisan bill is a uniquely Colorado solution to the growing health care problems in our state. Too many hardworking individuals and families, especially in rural Colorado, are paying too much for health insurance.”

As is, options for insurance carriers are very limited. Routt County essentially has only one choice, Anthem, with a second option only available to a select few.

Another bipartisan “reinsurance” bill is moving forward in the Colorado legislature, projected to lower premiums on the Western Slope by as much as 35% if passed.

On the Colorado Health Exchange the open enrollment period is officially closed, but they continue to enroll residents who need a special enrollment period because of a qualifying life change event.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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