BRECKENRIDGE — Gov. Jared Polis wants Colorado public employees — city, county, school district and state — to band together to lower their health care costs, he announced at a gathering of municipal officials Thursday.
“We would still be going through different insurance companies, but we would have better provider rates,” Polis told municipal officials from across the state who gathered at the Colorado Municipal League’s annual legislative workshop in Breckenridge.
What he wants to do is pool as many people together as possible, negotiate lower prices from providers (i.e. hospitals, doctors) and then bring those price lists to health insurance companies and ask for new — hopefully cheaper — plans using those rates. He envisions the new system being in place by 2021.
“Summit County is doing it now. Eagle County and La Plata County are exploring it, and then we are looking at using our statewide employee base of 30,000 as the core and reaching out to municipalities and school districts and other employers to join,” Polis told The Denver Post.
The governor told the packed conference room that his office plans to start reaching out to their city managers, chief financial officers and others this summer to see if they’re interested in being partners.
He said he thinks it could lower some premiums by as much as 20 percent.
Polis’ idea is modeled off the Peak Health Alliance in Summit County, where four of the county’s largest employers have banded together to negotiate for lower rates starting in 2020.
A bill passed during the 2019 legislative session, Senate Bill 4, makes such health care purchasing collaboratives possible by cleaning up existing statutory language.
“The pool concept has done well and done terrible over Colorado’s history,” CML Executive Director Kevin Bommer said.
Their success lies in keeping enough people in the pool, he said.
“They used to get cherry-picked. Healthy people were getting lower rates somewhere else and sicker people were being left behind, so they would fall apart,” Bommer said.
Summit County’s alliance forbids individual employers from making side deals with insurance companies or providers.
Bommer is optimistic that Polis’ proposal could work — especially if the governor’s team negotiates lower prices for surgeries and other expensive health care treatments.
“If that’s one of the issues he’s looking to tackle, then we’re all for it,” he said.