Lt.Gov. Dianne Primavera visits Summit County to learn about Peak Health Alliance
Gov. Jared Polis introduced last week a “roadmap” to reducing health care costs in Colorado. The broad plan involves utilizing several legislative and community-based approaches to attack the problem from different directions.
One such tactic is for consumers to negotiate down the cost of health insurance, and the governor is using Summit County’s own Peak Health Alliance as the premier example of communities taking bargaining power into their own hands.
Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, who heads the governor’s new Office of Saving People Money on Health Care, visited Summit on Tuesday to learn about Peak Health Alliance and observe the county’s approach to administering health care.
Primavera was on hand at the Summit Board of County Commissioners’ regular work session on Tuesday, where she was given a short primer on the alliance and what it intends to achieve.
The alliance is a pilot program that may serve as a model for other rural and resort communities in Colorado after it goes live next year. It is the state’s first county-based health care collaborative which uses the collective bargaining power of self-insured employers and their employees to drive down costs, both with providers and insurers.
Last month, Peak negotiated a contract to make Centura Health, which owns St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, the alliance’s primary health service provider, and is working on other contracts based on negotiated health care fee schedules to cap costs above what Peak considers reasonable for the average Summit resident.
Polis threw his support behind SB 19-004, which would clean up language in existing state laws and would allow the Peak Health Alliance and similar community-based to operate unhindered. That bill is sponsored by state Sen. Kerry Donavan (D-Vail) with Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Avon) and Summit’s own Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon) introducing the bill in the house.
In the information packet explaining his health care roadmap, the governor’s office specifically noted the Peak Health Alliance as the way forward on negotiating down health insurance costs.
“(W)e are supporting the Summit County Peak Health Alliance, which enables consumers to collectively negotiate their health insurance plans, and will bring its successes to the rest of the state,” the informational packet read.
After the presentation on Peak, Primavera said she was impressed by the unique collaborative and how it was formed out of community-based problem-solving.
“It’s amazing, and it’s a great example of democracy in action,” Primavera told the Summit Daily. “To be able to come together and create this, and get these ideas to elected officials, it sets a great example for the rest of the state.”
Tamara Drangstveit, a member of Peak Health Alliance’s executive committee and executive director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, appreciated the support the state is showing the pilot program.
“We are grateful we have support from Gov. Polis and Lt. Gov. Primavera,” Drangstveit said. “There is no question that we would not have been able to be as far along as we are without their support.”
Primavera next visited the Summit Community Care Clinic in Frisco, a frontline health center that provides care for insured and uninsured alike. Primavera noted that integrating different kinds of health care was a key part of the governor’s roadmap, and the clinic is among the few facilities in the High Country that provides physical, behavioral and dental care to Summit residents.
“The Care Clinic was honored to host the lieutenant governor and share our successes and challenges as a community health center,” said Summit Community Care Clinic CEO Helen Royal. “We look forward to further conversations as she and the governor work on implementing their health care roadmap.”
Primavera’s last stop in Summit before visiting Leadville was the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, which helps Summit’s working families apply for health care coverage and other benefits. Drangstveit was on hand with several clients who offered testimonials on the ways FIRC helped them.
“We talked about the different issues we have out here, like the high cost of health care, shortages in housing; we spent a lot of time talking about mental health challenges in the community,” Drangstveit said. “She definitely listened, and I think our clients got the sense she understood their struggles.”
The Peak Health Alliance will continue negotiating provider and insurance contracts and is still scheduled to go live in January 2020. SB 19-004 will get a hearing in the state Legislature next week.
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