It’s not often you see good news about health care costs. But as the lieutenant governor and leader of the Governor’s Office of Saving People Money on Health Care, I am thrilled to be the bearer of good news for ratepayers in Durango.
Throughout last year’s gubernatorial campaign, Gov. Jared Polis and I heard from thousands of constituents pleading for us to take action on the high cost of health care, especially folks in rural areas like the southwest corner of our state.
So when we took office this year, Gov. Polis and I – with the help of our partners in the state Legislature – got to work on reducing the burden of health care costs on hardworking Colorado families.
I’m glad to say that our work is paying off, and we’re beginning to see the fruits of our labor.
This year, we passed a bipartisan program called reinsurance, which allows insurance companies to offset some of their highest-cost medical cases.
As a result of that program, we are proud to announce that premiums for those who buy insurance for themselves on the individual market instead of having it provided by their employers will go down by an average of 18.2% across the state next year, and an average of 29.1% in Western Slope communities like Durango, with some plans offering as much as a 40.3% reduction.
In real dollars, this means that premiums for a family of four buying their own insurance will decrease by an average of $748 per month, or $8,979 per year.
These are huge savings that will make it easier for families to pay the rent or the mortgage, save for college or retirement, or have a family vacation every once in a while.
And while reinsurance is a victory for hardworking families across Colorado, these new lower rates will have a disproportionately positive impact on communities like Durango that rely on small, family-owned businesses whose owners and workers buy insurance on the individual market. When small businesses save money on health insurance, Durango’s entire economy will have more room to grow, and everyone will reap the benefits.
And there are even benefits for those who already get employer-based coverage. When health care rates are lower, more people can afford to purchase insurance, which means that there is less uncompensated care that gets passed on to the rest of us through higher premiums and higher hospital bills. Furthermore, cheaper rates on the individual market will exert downward pressure on employer-based premiums, helping to drive down costs for everyone.
But this isn’t the be-all and end-all of our efforts to reduce the cost burden on Colorado families. In addition to reinsurance, we took bipartisan action and passed legislation to increase hospital transparency to determine and address the drivers of outrageous hospital bills.
We also passed legislation to protect consumers from out-of-network “surprise” billing, create a prescription drug importation plan and cap out-of-pocket insulin prices.
We also took a historic step to lay the groundwork for a state-based insurance option, to increase competition in the health care market and give consumers even more freedom and choice when it comes to selecting a health care plan that works for them.
Lowering health care costs is difficult work. As the governor likes to say, “if something was easy, it would have been done already.”
And anything worth doing is going to take some hard work.
Take it from me. I’ve seen our health care system through many different lenses – as a policymaker, an administrator, an advocate, a parent, and unfortunately, as a patient with a terminal illness.
As a survivor of cancer four times over, I know what it’s like to carry the emotional burden of a debilitating sickness with the financial burden of paying for the treatment. Losing my job and trying to provide for my daughters was made all the more difficult by skyrocketing medical bills.
I know I’m not alone. For years, Coloradans have been crying out for relief from high health costs.
Rest assured that we hear you, and we’re fighting for you.
Dianne Primavera is the lieutenant governor of Colorado.