Garfield County to file suit against state to address excessive health insurance premiums

February 11, 2014

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – Citing concerns from citizens affected by high insurance rates stemming from Garfield County being included in a resort classification, Monday the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) directed the county attorney to prepare a lawsuit against the State of Colorado.

“We will prepare a complaint to file in federal district court that this is in violation of the law,” said Board Chair John Martin in reference to the Affordable Care Act. The board’s plan to move forward with litigation is aimed at compelling the state Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Insurance (DOI) to comply with federal law requiring the state to establish health insurance rating areas that are nondiscriminatory, and that will make health care affordable.

The BOCC has made repeated requests for the DOI to revisit the resort classification for Garfield County residents, citing comparative inpatient charges from the Colorado Hospital Association showing that hospital rates here are less than metropolitan averages for many health care procedures.

In Garfield County, the failure of the state to comply with federal law has resulted in citizens and insurance brokers noting an increase of 100 percent, and as much as 300 percent, in costs for health insurance premiums for individuals. Business insurance rates have escalated by thousands of dollars per year. The commissioners are concerned this could potentially cause residents and businesses to leave Garfield County, due to insurance rates resulting from the state’s action.

“I have had phone calls and numerous examples of how our constituents are being impacted by high insurance rates,” said Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “They are the highest in the United States, and I believe we are being discriminated against. Insurance costs in our county are lower than metropolitan areas; we have provided numerous instances of this, and are not being listened to. We will move forward with litigation if we do not find immediate satisfaction.”

“We will continue negotiations, however, we will not tolerate state inaction to remedy these problems until 2016 as the state has proposed,” said County Attorney Frank Hutfless.