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Summit County cooperative agrees to help Southwest Colorado group lower insurance costs

Health alliance hopes to have new insurance plans available in 2021
A new regional cooperative aims to lower health care insurance costs for workers and employers.

A Summit County cooperative that successfully negotiated lower health care insurance costs for workers and employers is going to help a similar group do the same for Southwest Colorado.

The Southwest Health Alliance hopes to negotiate lower insurance premiums for individuals and employers in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties using the model Peak Health Alliance successfully used in Summit County, said Monique DiGiorgio, managing director of Local First, a nonprofit leading the effort to set up Southwest Health Alliance.

Peak Health Alliance announced this week it will help Southwest Health Alliance launch, DiGiorgio said. The Durango-based alliance will remain an independent group through the process, she said.

“I think they were inspired by the work they were able to do, and they want to help the other West Slope communities,” DiGiorgio said.

Next year, Summit County residents who purchase health care through the state health exchange will see their insurance premiums drop 41%, in part, because of Peak Health Alliance, said Tamara Pogue-Drangstveit, CEO of the Summit County alliance. Residents purchasing insurance in Summit County through an employer should also see significant savings, she said.

Peak Health Alliance lowered costs by negotiating prices directly with health care providers, such as St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, to lower health insurance costs on behalf of county residents. Then the alliance contracted with insurance companies to offer insurance coverage at lower prices.

It is unknown how much savings Southwest Health Alliance could achieve for Southwest Colorado residents because it has not yet analyzed health insurance claim data, DiGiorgio said.

But a health care needs assessment completed by Local First found that spending on outpatient services across the Western Slope is about 87% higher than the state average.

DiGiorgio said she expects the analysis of the health data for the region could be complete by the end of the year. At that time, the group will likely decide what the geographic scope of the new alliance will be, she said.

Working together as a region could give the group more negotiating power, she said.

Southwest Health Alliance would like to have insurance plans ready for employers and individuals to purchase from insurance companies by 2021, she said.

Large employers with high health care costs can request more information about the alliance from DiGiorgio at 799-6618, ext. 1, or director@local-first.org.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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