Commissioners direct county to advance litigation on health insurance rates

February 21, 2014

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – This morning local citizens filled the Garfield County Commission chambers to share their experiences with the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) regarding health insurance rates that have increased 150 percent or more.

Citizens conveyed deeply felt concerns, expressing that the rates in Garfield County are equal to their mortgage payments or entire Social Security checks, and that they are faced with paying penalties for not carrying insurance because the coverage costs are too extreme. Some said that businesses are at risk of failing because of mandated costs, and that the coverage for these premiums not only costs thousands in out-of-pocket expenses, but also that the least expensive coverage offers only catastrophic coverage. They expressed that paying these high premiums will drain millions of dollars out of the local economy. One citizen summed it up, saying that excessive health insurance rates are causing a major economic crisis for Garfield County.

The BOCC directed Garfield County Attorney Frank Hutfless to prepare a budget summary regarding legal costs for the county to pursue litigation against the Colorado Division of Insurance. Hutfless also will commence research in-house to construct a civil complaint to file in federal court.

In addition, the board directed the attorney’s office staff to prepare a rough draft of legislation to modify geographic rating areas and take additional steps toward trying to lower health care costs in 2014.

Representatives from the BOCC, including Board Chair John Martin, will meet March 20 with Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, and Marguerite Salazar, commissioner of the Colorado Division of Insurance. While the county has already made multiple efforts on the matter already, the board will make this one final attempt to change Garfield County’s insurance rating classification in order to get insurance premiums lowered, as it prepares litigation on the matter.

Although not yet scheduled, the matter will be addressed further in upcoming county commission meetings, held the first three Mondays of each month, and in special meetings and work sessions as needed.

The testimony from today’s meeting is online at this link: