Health insurance is something we don’t like to think about until we need it. And then we want him to pay for what we need. Unfortunately, life is much more complicated than that. Health insurance premiums have become increasingly unaffordable for many businesses and individuals, while deductibles and copayments continue to rise. How did we come here?
The United States differs from industrialized countries in its reliance on private health insurance to cover the working-age population. This is due to a historical quirk: During World War II, employers weren’t allowed to raise wages, so they offered health insurance as a benefit, and it became an expectation. But as health care progressed and people used more services, its cost rose faster than inflation. Nationally, health insurers and health care providers began to consolidate and raise prices without a corresponding increase in the quality of care.
Letting people go without health insurance is a gamble. Life throws up unwanted surprises like a car accident or a cancer diagnosis. Medical bills are one of the major contributors to bankruptcy. In a tight labor market, companies that offer health insurance will have an advantage in hiring and retaining talent, as well as reaping the benefits of contributing to a healthy and productive workforce. Yet some companies struggle to offer this benefit financially.
To address this need in our community, Local First Foundation has partnered with Peak Health Alliance to provide more affordable health insurance options to businesses and individuals in Southwestern Colorado. Peak is a non-profit buying cooperative that empowers our local communities and helps us keep our local dollars. With the participation and support of healthcare providers, including Centura Health and Animas Surgical Hospital, our efforts have saved residents of southwestern Colorado nearly $4 million, contributing to a stronger local economy. strong.
The state of Colorado has also taken steps to make health insurance more affordable. A state reinsurance program has reduced premiums for individuals and families, who can also qualify for federal premium subsidies (advanced tax credits) under the Affordable Care Act by enrolling through the Colorado Health Insurance Exchange, known as Connect for Health Colorado.
Businesses can take advantage of the state reinsurance program by offering individual health coverage reimbursement arrangements. Through an ICHRA, employers place money in accounts that their employees can use to purchase a health insurance policy of their choice. Unlike traditional group insurance, in which the business owner chooses one health plan for all members of the group, employees with an ICHRA can choose the plan that suits them best.
It’s not too late for local businesses to start offering an ICHRA to their employees. Peak Health Alliance has certified several local preferred brokers who can educate business owners on the best option for their situation. Companies that already offer traditional coverage may want to check out the ICHRA option as a way to provide more affordable and flexible employee benefits.
You should buy health insurance like any other product. Compare your options on Connect for Health Colorado. Open registration for individuals and families begins November 1. Those experiencing a “life changing event” can enroll immediately. To learn more, visit the Peak Health Alliance website (www.peakhealthalliance.org) or contact me at [email protected]
Doug McCarthy is a healthcare advocate and acting executive director of the Local First Foundation.