Opinion: Colorado Health Insurance Option is a win for Routt County residents

Beth Melton
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Last year, our state representative, Dylan Roberts, spearheaded an effort to pass the Colorado Health Insurance Option legislation, and now, the Division of Insurance is engaging in stakeholder meetings to hear from you about how to move forward.

Buying insurance in Routt County can seem like a racket. Year after year, Routt County residents have to figure out how to pay more for insurance and/or deal with health benefit decreases. I cannot think of another industry that so consistently increases prices while reducing services year after year. This is unsustainable, and we are paying the price both with our wallets and our health.

Health care costs are placing a significant and increasing burden on all Coloradans, especially folks who live in counties with just one carrier. Routt County is one of 11 counties in Colorado without competition in the insurance market. While there may be multiple plan “options,” here, they are all offered through Anthem. No competition means more profit for them and less benefit for us.

Over the past few years, I have heard story after story from Routt County residents about paying for skyrocketing premiums, clipping coupons to buy life-saving prescription drugs and stopping to decide whether they could afford to go to the emergency room.

This is why I supported the passage of the Colorado Health Insurance Option. We deserve insurance options that we can afford and use when we need it. Rural and non-white Coloradans are disproportionately affected and pushed further into economic hardship due to costly medical bills. Even for rural Coloradans with private insurance, 16.4% report that they have trouble paying their burdensome medical bills.

Private insurance should offer security and relief from medical debt, yet, for people with and without insurance, the status quo only delays an all too common reality that one in five Coloradans forgo care that they need because they can’t afford it.

By reducing the cost of health care, we can hopefully improve these disparities and help more people in our community not only receive the care they deserve but not sacrifice paying for basic necessities including food, housing and education.

The Colorado Option reduces health insurance premiums by 15% over the next three years. It will be offered on the individual and small group market by 2023. This means individuals, families and small businesses with less than 100 employees will have access to insurance options that are more affordable than what is offered today.

Additionally, the Colorado Option was written and designed to begin to address historical health disparities faced by Coloradans living in rural areas of the state. This is one of the first times both an insurance plan, and its network are required to consider how rural residents access their care.

The Colorado Division of Insurance is currently hearing from community members about ways the Colorado Option can better provide health care to all Coloradans. This is an opportunity for Routt County residents to provide meaningful input and play a role in designing the Colorado Health Insurance Option. You can visit the Colorado Division of Insurance website for more information on how to get involved.

I am so grateful that Representative Roberts and others championed this bill through the legislative process this year. I know it will provide meaningful relief to families and small businesses in Routt County.

This column represents the views of Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton and not any official position of the Board of County Commissioners or Routt County.

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