Health insurance premiums in Summit County to go down 41%

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Mark Carley, Centura Health’s Vice President of managed care and risk products, speaks at the Keystone Lodge in Keystone, Colo. on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019, discussing a reduction in health insurance premiums through Peak Health Alliance in Summit County. Other speakers included Colorado Governor Jared Polis, Colorado Insurance Commissioner Mike Conway, The Summit Foundation’s Cindy Bargell, and CEO of Peak Health Alliance’s Tamara Pogue Drangstveit.
Liz Copan / | Summit Daily News

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and other local and state dignitaries gathered Monday in Keystone to celebrate the official launch of Summit County’s Peak Health Alliance, the state’s first health care purchasing collaborative.

Polis announced the collaborative, in combination with the state’s recently passed reinsurance program, will reduce individual plan prices in Summit County next year by an average of 41.5% compared with 2019 prices.

Eighteen months of work came to fruition at the announcement ceremony, which took place at the Keystone Lodge & Spa.

Peak Health executive director Tamara Drangstveit joined Polis, Rep. Julie McCluskie (D-Dillon), state insurance commissioner Michael Conway, Centura Health representative Mark Carley, and The Summit Foundation board members Mark Spiers and Cindy Bargell on the stage to celebrate the relief in premiums for consumers who pay among the highest health care costs in the nation.

“A typical family of four in Summit County buying insurance on the marketplace will save $14,000 next year,” Polis said after unveiling the price reductions. “Those who have been struggling will have that much more to inject into the local economy and to save for college and retirement. It is absolutely transformative and will help many people live, work and thrive in Summit.”

Polis presented a chart showing examples of where Summit residents would see their cost reductions in 2020 compared with 2019.

The Peak Health gold plan prescription drug copay will go down nearly 47%, while the silver plan prescription copay will be reduced by as much as 47%. The bronze plan costs will drop as much as 41%, and the catastrophic plan will see a more than 45% reduction in premiums.

Started as a special initiative of The Summit Foundation, which provided the initial $150,000 of seed money to get the initiative on the launchpad, Peak Health was created as a response to skyrocketing insurance premium costs in the High Country, which nearly doubled for individual buyers from 2015 to 2019.

“The purpose of The Summit Foundation is to help working families,” Spiers said. “The cost of health care was heavily impacting individuals in the county, and so the foundation unanimously approved funding for the initial study costs.”

Spiers credited Conway, the state insurance commissioner, for his guidance and help in creating the alliance.

“The 41.5% cost reduction is nothing short of miraculous,” Conway said. “I know we often talk about how the worst thing to hear is, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ But we are here to help. We are going to do really amazing things. This is why we do this, days like this, where I get to tell a family of four that they will save $14,000.”

Polis credited McCluskie for being a driving force behind the alliance as well as the state’s reinsurance program, which itself will bring premiums down statewide by 18.2%.

“After carrying the legislation in the house that helped make this possible, I watched people in this community work so hard to help bring down the cost of health care for our working families,” McCluskie said. “To have it become real today is probably one of the best moments I’ve had as a legislator.”

While taking her turn at the podium, Drangstveit choked up as she gave an example of the nightmare she and others in the alliance sought to prevent.

Drangstveit explained that, after having twins born prematurely 41/2 years ago, she was able to get the care they needed and was relatively financially unscathed because she had insurance. But she recalled the story of a mother of twins, also born prematurely, who did not have insurance, was unable to buy a home, lost her job, was unable to afford early child care for her babies and is still paying for their therapy with credit cards.

“I’m genuine when I say that I know how much pain this has been causing our community,” Drangstveit said, crediting partners including The Summit Foundation, St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, Bright Health, Rocky Mountain Health Plans and local governments and businesses for coming to the table to make Peak Health a reality.

“The fact that we’ll have this much relief this year, it means a lot to me, personally. It means a lot to all of the people who partnered with us to make this happen, but mostly, it’s all about all those people I heard who have been struggling,” Drangstveit said.

Polis lauded Peak Health Alliance as an example for the state, with nearby mountain communities poised to create their own collaboratives with Peak Health as the organization to model. He said it was an example of the Colorado can-do, problem-solving attitude that gets people working together, tackling problems bigger than any individual could solve.

“Peak is a Colorado-born success story about our frontier spirit, one that we want to replicate across state,” he said.


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