Gardner: In Summit County, Obamacare math doesn’t add up
As stated in my letter published on Saturday, the cost of a comparable health care policy in Summit County for 2014 will cost 45% more than my wife’s and mine current combined policies, 44% more than that same policy in Clear Creek County in 2014, and the same in Eagle County.
Here’s how the Summit County health policy cost compares to its other neighboring counties: 44% more than in Park County and 39% more than in Grand and Lake counties.
Obamacare requires all states to establish geographic rating areas in one of three ways: Establish one rating area for the entire state; Use Metropolitan Service Areas (MSAs), seven in Colorado as defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and one non-MSA; or Develop a unique structure for Colorado which required federal approval. The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) chose option 3 with 11 geograghic rating areas which in their words “create the least amount of disruption to communities.” A year over year (YOY) cost increase of 45% and 39-44% higher cost than 4 four out of five neighboring counties are extremely harmful disruptions to our community.
On Oct.16 DOI issued a news release regarding the differences in health insurance premiums that are offered in mountain resort areas compared to other parts of the state. In the release Commissioner Marguerite Salazar stated, “The mountain and resort communities have had higher premiums than the Front Range, on average, over the past 25 years.” We all know that living here costs more than along the Front Range. However, Cover Colorado, our state’s high risk health insurance plan, assigns each county one of four area rate factors, which accounts for the difference mentioned by Commissioner Salazar. Here’s how Summit County compares to its neighboring counties under Cover Colorado: Lake same; Clear Creek and Park +4%; Grand +10%; and Eagle -3%. A few percent difference between us and our neighbors does not warrant letters to the editor and emails to County Commissioners up through U.S. Congressmen but 39-44% higher costs should have everyone voicing their concern.
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The release goes on to state, “Due to the legal requirements of the premium rate review process, the geographic areas for 2014 cannot be revisited …” I have a feeling that DOI’s choice of option 3, develop a unique structure for Colorado with 11 rating areas, has created severe unintended consequences of our significantly higher YOY costs and the large cost discrepancy between us and most of our neighbors. In addition, I believe that option 1, a single state rate area, and option 2, MSAs and non-MSA are easier, less costly and less arbitrary to implement and would alleviate or decrease these cost issues.
In my opinion, Governor Hickenlooper should direct the DOI to get this corrected for 2014, but this will not happen unless you contact the Governor and your other elected officials. Is your time for a few phone calls or emails worth thousands of dollars?
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