Peak Health Alliance offers Grand County a chance to lower health care costs |

Peak Health Alliance offers Grand County a chance to lower health care costs

Tamara Pogue, CEO of Peak Health Alliance, speaks at a September health care event in Keystone.
Summit Daily file photo

This year, for a family of four in Grand County, the cheapest health insurance plan available for them to purchase directly, rather than through a job or the government, will cost roughly $1,900 per month.

Health care premiums have skyrocketed in Colorado, particularly on the Western Slope. As a result, Grand County is looking for solutions by joining the nonprofit Peak Health Alliance.

“(Health insurance premiums) were causing a crisis and still are causing a crisis,” said Tamara Drangstveit, chief executive officer for Peak Health Alliance. “Families are moving and leaving, businesses are closing because they can’t afford health insurance.”

In 2020, employees of Grand County can sign up for the first plans offered by Peak Health in Grand County. In 2021, all residents will have the option to join individually or on a small group plan.

Peak Health Alliance and the Board of Grand County Commissioners hosted three information sessions to share information about the options and answer questions.

Grand County is the first county to partner with Peak Health Alliance outside Summit County.

The county joined Peak Health Alliance because the nonprofit has significant negotiating power when it comes to lowering costs and ensuring good coverage thanks to the number of people it serves.

“What we did with reinsurance in Grand County is going to save about $5 to $6 million for our population in one year,” said Commissioner Rich Cimino. “What’s going to happen with Peak Health Alliance on top of reinsurance in 2021, that is going to be a $6 to $8 million savings over what it had been like if those didn’t happen.”

Over the 10 years she worked for Summit County’s Family and Intercultural Resource Center, Drangstveit said, some families’ premiums have gone from being 10% of their annual expenses to almost 40%.

However, since Peak Health Alliance established itself in Summit County, the nonprofit has managed to negotiate with Centura the lowest rates in Colorado and premiums have dropped by 20%, according to Drangstveit. 

The idea is to find a way to do the same with Grand County’s premiums and encourage more local residents to carry health insurance. Currently, 19% of the county is uninsured, according to the Grand County Rural Health Network.

“Essentially, what we do is use data to identify the cost-drivers in a given community,” Drangstveit explained. “In Grand County, for example, your hospital is eminently affordable. The problem is not as many people use the hospital as should use the hospital, so a lot of the work we’ve done has been about changing plan design to incentivize folks to go to the local hospital.”

That doesn’t mean Middle Park Health will be the only hospital on the plan. In fact, all Centura hospitals would be included, as well as other options for specialty care, including children’s needs, mental health and dental.

The plans offered by Peak Health also carve out care, including primary physician visits, that can be accessed without having to pay down a plan’s deductible.

“Our commitment is to negotiating first with local providers and then wrapping in the other guys when that care can’t be delivered locally,” Drangstveit said. 

Providing complete local care will remain the goal as Peak tries to lower deductibles in the state. To have the negotiating power to lower deductibles, Peak Health needs to impact more lives, Drangstveit said, and so it plans to continue partnering with neighboring counties to help more people.

Enrollment for the upcoming year is open until Jan. 15, 2020.

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