Health insurance co-op helps patients pool their resources

Peak Health Alliance, set up in Summit County, Colorado, is expanding to other parts of the state

In the US, the non-profit co-op model is one option for residents struggling with health insurance costs.

In western Colorado, Peak Health Alliance has helped to lower costs for people in several counties, and is looking to expand next year. With insurance costs running to thousands of dollars a month for some families, the problem is a pressing one.

Commissioners in Garfield County – where around 20% of residents have no insurance – have given the co-op $25,000 to explore the possibility of its expansion into their territory.

Peak Health, which works with insurers and healthcare providers to negotiate coverage, started in Summit County. In Summit, it expects the costs of health insurance purchased through the state marketplace to fall 41.5% – helped also by changes to state legislation on health reinsurance.

Garfield County commissioner Tom Jankovsky told the local press: “There is a lot of work to get this done, but we’ll come up with some numbers and take a look to see if it makes sense to move forward.”

If the county can persuade between 2,000 and 6,000 individuals to join the co-op it could make sense, he added, and argued the scheme would help small businesses offer more affordable health insurance for their staff.

A committee is being formed to compile data from Garfield County, including the number of claims filed by county residents and cost of care provided.

Armed with that information, the county would negotiate pricing with providers and insurance carriers and issue a request for proposals from insurance companies to represent the county.

Even another 10–15% rate reduction for the county could make a big difference, especially for small employers (50 workers or less) that make up the bulk of Garfield County businesses, he said.

In October, Peak announced it had expanded from its base in Summit to six other Colorado counties, including Archuleta, Dolores, Grand, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan. This added 20,000 people to the number of potential enrollees in Peak Health by 20,000 people

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