High Health Insurance Costs Still Plague Mountain Areas

High health insurance costs in Colorado's mountain towns have been a reality for years. Two years ago, Insurance Commissioner Margeurite Salazar told CPR News she thought the problem would work itself out as more Coloradans signed up for coverage in the state's health care exchange.

It hasn't worked out that way.

On Thursday at a public meeting in Basalt, frustrated residents told state officials they have few insurance options and are dealing with soaring costs.

“Many of us feel we are alone in this mess,” Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt told Division of Insurance officials, according to the Aspen Times. She said her monthly premiums are going from $600 to $900 next year.

Insurers can choose which portions of Colorado they do business in. Those geographic boundaries were redrawn last year in an effort to bring down prices. That came up at Thursday's meeting, the Times reports:

Several members in the audience said the entire state should be considered one area so that carriers couldn’t cherry pick where to offer coverage. [Tom Abel, a Division of Insurance supervisor] countered that would reduce carrier options for other parts of the state. The state might end up with only two or three carriers, he said.

“Who cares?” some audience members retorted, noting the mountain areas already have only two carriers.

The Summit Daily reported in October that premiums for individual plans in Western Colorado will rise by an average of 26 percent next year.