Opinion | Partick Brower: On inflation and health care for the lowly local entrepreneur
Grand Enterprise Initiative
I’ve avoided mentioning inflation and health care coverage in Grand County before the election. Those tend to be hot topics in the political realm.
They should be.
But the elections are behind us and inflation and the high cost of health care coverage — particularly insurance — are going to be impacting Grand County entrepreneurs and citizens for the coming year. Not that this is “news,” because those issues have already been affecting our business and living environment.
Sadly, I think this negative impact is going to continue.
Inflation will still be with us, but my guess is that the rate of inflation is going to slow. With the Federal Reserve doing its best to tamp down lending and with the reactions of consumers and tourists to higher prices, I think the county and the state are bound to see people cutting back on spending. When that happens, prices will stabilize. Some might even drop.
And yet, jobs and job openings continue to grow, confounding the Fed and other economics experts. That being said, some big employers in the U.S. have just announced some rather large layoffs, like Meta (aka Facebook) and Twitter, famously, are doing so. I think other layoffs in metro areas and with large employers will continue.
But it won’t be a blowout of lost jobs. I don’t see that happening here. It will be a relatively small cutback in the grand scheme of things.
All this jobs news is important relating to inflation because that’s one big way how the Federal Reserve determines where to set interest rates. High interest rates discourage investing and spending, which could reign in price hikes.
And yet, several factors are going to continue to hit us with high prices right here in Grand County. For starters, health care for those out there with no employer-based coverage is going to get expensive. That’s because Bright Health, which was the designated health insurer for this mountain region as arranged by a regional cooperative, is leaving Colorado.
Those of us who dealt with Bright may not be too upset. It wasn’t great insurance and the service was sketchy. But now there is no regional cooperative taking its place for us here in the mountains and the insurance plans that are left are much more expensive than what Bright was charging for its premiums. I know this because I’ve already had to shop for plans to take the place of Bright.
As inflation really sinks in for all off the merchants our prices here will continue to stay high and may be even higher in the near future, but I think they will level off. Regardless, high prices will continue.
And then there’s the cost of basic utilities that will surely be higher. Natural gas will go up.
And in a related development, the town of Granby has announced some massive increases for its water service charges and usage fees in the north service area. These are large increases that are needed because of required and delayed improvements to the water plant. But the increases are large. (As I write this, the town board has not yet approved the proposed rate increases but it seems likely they will be approved.)
Put this all on top of the current problems with housing and finding employees for local businesses, and the picture for cutting prices and dodging inflation is not so great for the near future. Employers are getting into a cycle of having to increase wages and that means higher prices for services and products.
But by the summer, this cycle will abate. And that’s my crystal ball prediction for now.
Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative, a grassroots, nonprofit economic development nonprofit in Grand County. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He’s also the Author of “KILLDOZER: The True Story of the Colorado Bulldozer Rampage.” He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at email@example.com
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