Colorado news roundup: Town of Vail police to now wear body cameras (05.16.16)
May 16, 2016
Here's what's going on around Colorado today:
WHY DO HEALTH INSURANCE PRICES VARY BY REGION? COLORADO SET TO STUDY
High Country residents who pay high prices for health insurance are seeing a glimmer of hope for relief.
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Colorado legislators approved a bill to study whether the entire state should be treated as a single geographic district for health insurance policy purposes. Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign it Tuesday.
The creation of a statewide district probably would mean modest increases for health insurance in Colorado's largest metropolitan area, where prices are relatively low.
But it could yield a big drop in lightly-populated mountain counties, where people pay some of the highest health insurance prices in the United States.
In Glenwood Springs, some advocates of a single district say their insurance premiums rival their mortgage payments.
Chris Neuswanger, an Eagle County mortgage broker, said he pays $744 a month, with a $6,500 deductible and an $8,000 limit on out-of-pocket expenses as a healthy, single nonsmoker.
Families of four are paying $22,000 to $26,000 for coverage, he said.
He contends that health insurance should be treated more like home insurance.
"When there are wildfires in Colorado Springs or hailstorms in Aurora, everyone pays a little more," he said.
The Division of Insurance has questioned whether a single rate would be fair to people who now pay less.
The legislation directs the insurance commissioner to study the impact and viability of creating a single geographic rating area for health insurance. A report is due in August.
The report will look at five cost areas: prescription drugs, doctor rates, diagnostic tests, surgery and other hospital procedures.
Insurance division spokesman Vincent Plymell said that gives a chance to "get under the hood" and see what is driving medical costs in different areas of Colorado.
"We are happy to get onto the study," he said. "We want to dig into those health care costs as well."
20,000 COLORADANS AFFECTED BY HEALTH INSURERS PULLING OUT OF EXCHANGE
A little over 20,000 people in Colorado will be affected by the decision of UnitedHealth and Humana to exit the individual market and the state's health insurance exchange.
"It's not too much a blow to the system," said Vincent Plymell, communications manager for the Colorado Division of Insurance.
The exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, is the marketplace for consumer buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
The decisions by the insurers will impact 9,914 people who use UnitedHealth and 9,914 people who use Humana, the division said in a news release. About 420,000 people bought their health insurance in the individual plan market in 2015, both on and off the exchange, according to a survey by the Colorado Health Institute, the release added.
For 2017, UnitedHealth, along with most of its subsidiaries, is discontinuing its participation in the individual market in Colorado, both on and off the exchange. Golden Rule Insurance, one subsidiary of UnitedHealth, will continue to offer its individual plans in Colorado off of the exchange. UnitedHealth will continue its small and large group business in the state.
Humana will continue in the small group market for 2017 off the exchange, while exiting the individual market for both Humana Health Plans and Humana Health Insurance Co.
Coverage for consumers with individual plans from these companies will remain in place until Dec. 31. Consumers should expect notices in July from the companies regarding the cancellation of their plans.
COLORADO LAWMAKERS DECLARE HOLIDAY TO CELEBRATE PUBLIC LAND
Colorado has become the first state to establish a holiday celebrating public land.
Starting in 2017, the third Saturday in May will be Colorado Public Lands Day under a bill passed by state lawmakers. Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign it this month.
Conservation Colorado, along with hunting and fishing groups, pushed the measure, partly in response to the seizure of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by armed militants.
Colorado lawmakers passed the bill this month on a 36-29 vote in the House and a 25-8 vote in the Senate.
It adds to the National Public Lands Day on Sept. 24.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell welcomed the effort to celebrate open space.
"Public land is integral to our economy. It provides for thousands of jobs. And it is the basis for the Colorado brand," Conservation Colorado spokeswoman Jessica Goad said.
Colorado has 24 million acres of federal public land covering mountains, deserts, forests and prairie. Outdoor recreation is linked to 125,000 jobs and generates an estimated $13.2 billion a year in Colorado.
COLORADO BABYSITTER ALLEGEDLY TAKES KIDS TO BANK ROBBERY
SEVERANCE, Colo. — A Colorado woman is accused of taking two children she was babysitting to a bank robbery.
The Weld County Sheriff's Office says the woman went through the drive through of a bank in Severance with the two children on Friday. She allegedly sent a note through the vacuum tube saying that there was a man in her car who wanted money and was threatening to her hurt her children. Investigators say the teller at the Colorado East Bank & Trust in Severance gave her $500.
Sheriff's office spokesman Matt Turner says there wasn't a man in the car with them.
TOWN OF VAIL POLICE OFFICERS TO NOW WEAR BODY CAMERAS
VAIL, Colo. — Officers from the Vail Police Department will soon be recording interactions on a new body worn camera system, joining Avon and Eagle along with other departments across the country. Officers are currently undergoing training on how and when to use the system, with a scheduled rollout Monday.
Following the recommendation from the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Cmdr. Daric Harvey says the department began researching video systems used throughout the nation. Five leading companies were identified using public and private reports on systems that were currently being used in other departments.
After a six-month research project and 60 days of product testing each, the department has purchased the COBAN Echo camera, which is being integrated with the current patrol car cameras the department has been using for the past eight years, Harvey said.
The Echo cameras were more cost-effective than other systems and met the department's needs to accurately record incidents. He says 40 cameras and a storage system have been purchased within the project budget of $58,000.
Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger says the body-camera program will be used to enhance transparency and evidence collection while balancing the privacy concerns of the public. A draft implementation policy was presented May 3 to the Vail Town Council and has since been adopted by the department. The policy outlines instances when cameras will be activated, such as enforcement actions and use of force, as well as an overview of privacy protection examples, including but not limited to hospitals, places of worship and victims of crimes.
The policy ensures that those with a legitimate public interest may request a copy of video recordings, but still protects recognized privacy issues. The policy is available on the department's website at vailgov.com/police.
COLORADO’S 12DEGREE BREWING CLAIMS A TOP WORLD BEER CUP AWARD
One of Colorado's smaller craft breweries is celebrating a huge honor.
Louisville's 12Degree Brewing took the World Beer Cup awardfor small brewpub of the year and collected two more medals for its Belgian beers at the 2016 Craft Brewers Conference.
Days after returning home from Philadelphia, 12 Degree head brewer Jon Howland still seemed at a lost for words. "It was pretty cool," he said in an interview.
The beers that won recognition are part of the brewery's year-round lineup: the Soleil saison and the Treachery Belgian strong.
In total, Colorado craft brewers took home 35 medals Saturday – 11 gold, 12 silver and 12 bronze – in a variety of categories The state claimed all three medals in Belgian strong ale category and the only two awarded to fresh hop beers.
The other gold medal winners in what is called the craft beer Olympics: Blue Moon's First Peach Ale; 4 Noses' Pump Action Imperial Pumpkin Ale; Comrade's Yellow Fever; Steamworks' Steam Engine Lager; Odell's 90 Shilling; Dry Dock's Amber; Aspen Brewing's Independence Pass Ale; Odyssey Beerwerks' Clan Warrior Scotch Ale; Denver Beer's Summit Sunrise; and Left Hand's Fade to Black, Vol. 1.
In Louisville, Howland opened his brewery three years ago in a 120-year-old building downtown, expanding on his experience as a homebrewer.
Now, the seven-barrel operation is "just barely able to keep up with demand," he said, and the brewery is considering expansion. The saison that won the medal won't even return to the taps until this summer.
What stands out, he said, is knowing that his brews competed against the top beers from Belgium.
"That makes it all the more special," he said.
BISON CALVES BORN ON OPEN SPACE NORTH OF FORT COLLINS
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A dozen bison are now living on the plains north of Fort Collins following the birth of two calves last week.
The Coloradoan reports that the calves were born Friday and Tuesday at Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space. They arrived just after President Barack Obama signed legislation making the bison the official national mammal.
According to Colorado State University, the calves are the first America bison born on the public lands owned by Fort Collins and Larimer County in 150 years. They are part of the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation herd, which was released near the Colorado-Wyoming border in November.
The calves are the product of natural breeding and fathered by genetically-pure bison owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
FIRE OFFICIALS BURN 900 ACRES IN WHITE RIVER NATIONAL FOREST
ASPEN, Colo. — Fire officials successfully burned 900 acres in White River National Forest to help reduce fuel for wildfires.
The Aspen Daily News reports that about 60 percent of the area was burned in order to generate fresh growth and enhance habitat for deer and elk and reduce the buildup of fuels in the buffer zone between the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness and the city of Aspen.
The prescribed fire was set Saturday and was mostly out by Sunday. Crews are closely monitoring the site, and the area is accessible to the public.
RANCH SUES GARFIELD COUNTY OVER ROAD ACCESS
DE BEQUE, Colo. — A ranch has filed a lawsuit against Garfield County over whether a stretch of road outside De Beque is public or private.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that the High Lonesome Ranch has sued the county over the county's decision to direct the ranch to open a locked gate on County Road 200. The county decided in December that the road is public for about four miles beyond the gate.
High Lonesome Ranch has not yet unlocked and removed the gate.
The lawsuit is asking a judge to decide if the road is public or private and asks for a permanent injunction barring the county from requiring the gate's removal and a preliminary injunction letting the gate stay in place while the court considers the matter.
— The Associated Press, Denver Post