Summit County’s Peak Health Alliance hires Tamara Drangstveit as executive director
Summit County’s Peak Health Alliance community purchasing collaborative gains momentum by the day.
The state government continues to give its support to the model and other efforts to replicate it across Colorado, and on Friday Peak hired prominent Summit local and nonprofit director Tamara Drangstveit as its first executive director.
On Thursday, Drangstveit, who is already on Peak’s executive committee, testified to the House Rural Affairs & Agriculture Committee, in favor of SB 19-004. The bill would streamline language in existing state law to allow community health care purchasing groups like Peak to incorporate consumer protections, such as coverage of preexisting conditions.
The bill would also direct the state’s insurance commissioner to work with other communities to help set up their own collaboratives. Similar to Peak, these collaboratives would work to lower health care costs in Colorado by having consumers band together and use their collective bargaining power to lower prices with providers. The ultimate aim is to offer health plans to individuals, business and other groups that are more affordable than what currently exists on the market.
Drangstveit said that committee members from communities across the state were very interested in the model Peak Health Alliance has created.
“Most of the representatives from other districts asked about how we did it, and what strategy they would need to build a collaborative in their own communities,” Drangstveit said. “I got questions about the innovative approach, and observed there’s certainly a deep understanding that the cost of health premiums in many parts of the state are in a crisis.”
The bill wound up receiving unanimous support from the Rural Affairs & Agriculture Committee, and will soon hit the House floor for a full vote after having already passed the Senate by a 34–1 vote.
“In the absence of federal solutions to the health care crisis we face, Colorado communities are finding creative, innovative approaches to making health care more accessible,” said Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon), one of the prime co-sponsors of the bill. “Health care co-ops can be one more viable option to provide relief. I’m proud of the bipartisan bills we’ve worked to pass this session to help provide solutions to health care challenges hardworking families face every day.”
While Peak continues being recognized statewide, it is still very much in the incubation stage with rollout beginning this fall and plans starting next year. In the meantime, the group has looked to solidify the first pillar of its leadership team by hiring Drangstveit as its first leader.
In dual press releases from FIRC and Peak, it was announced that Drangstveit will step down from directorship of the Family & Intercultural Resources Center, a position she has held for over a decade, and start directing Peak Health Alliance in July.
As director of FIRC, Drangstveit oversaw the organization and its mission of helping working families pull themselves out of crisis and get the resources they need to survive in one of the most expensive communities in the country.
“FIRC is an incredible organization, and I’ve been so grateful working with this team and the community around us,” Drangstveit said. “I’m sad to go, but I know that good nonprofits adapt and grow with new leadership. I have an amazing board and a deep staff that will continue to support Summit’s working families.”
Drangstveit recalled what FIRC was like when she took its leadership role over ten years ago.
“When I was hired as FIRC’s executive director in 2008, the operating budget was $750,000. We had 10 program employees and we provided emergency assistance, early childhood support, a food bank and Summit Thrift & Treasure in Dillon,” Drangstveit said. “The organization was facing a $185,000 budget deficit and we received around $60,000 in yearly support from donors. FIRC was mainly focused on helping low-income families with education and support, but when the recession hit, we started to see more middle class families struggling to make ends meet.”
FIRC has continued to grow its program offerings as working family demands increased over the years, with family incomes being hampered by the rising cost of housing, health care and child care in the High Country.
“FIRC’s work in the community is vital to local families,” said FIRC board president Nick Doran in a press release. “While Tamara’s dedication and leadership will certainly be missed, we wish her all the best with her new opportunity. I am confident our amazing staff members will continue to put families’ needs first and we are well positioned to find our next leader who will continue to strengthen families and our community.”
Turning to her new role, Drangstveit said that Peak will work to finalize a provider network, as well as have bids from insurance carriers for individual, small business and large business plans approved by the end of the summer.
“My hope is that by July is that plans will be approved, and then after that teaching the community about those plans and how to access them, so we have strong membership by year two,” Drangstveit said. “We’ll also be tracking outcomes, measuring how people are doing on the plans and outcomes of their health care.”
Drangstveit once again assured that the plans the alliance introduces will be cheaper, but have no less in the way of services or providers than what Summit residents are used to. Drangstveit also presented an unofficial motto for the alliance and its health care offerings: affordability, quality and accessibility.
“Those have been the values of Peak Health Alliance, that we in Summit are fortunate to receive a high quality of care and we want to protect that quality of care,” Drangstveit said. “It all comes together: High quality healthcare is accessible health care, and that needs to mean affordable health care.”
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.