Sick of Rising Health Insurance Costs? - March 2003

Denver Women's Commission
Sick of Rising Health Insurance Costs? - March 2003


by Chaer Robert
for Zenith Magazine March 2003Edition

Nation-wide, everyone's health care costs are increasing by double digits each year -- individuals, small groups, large groups and Medicaid. Most studies name as the top cost drivers:

-prescription drugs
-increased hospital costs
-inadequate reimbursement from public programs (cost-shifting)
-and advanced medical technology.

But in Colorado, "mandates" and an increasingly unhealthy risk pool are the scapegoats for rising small business insurance costs.

"Mandates" are laws requiring health insurance cover certain medical procedures. Some mandates cover prevention, screening and early treatment to reduce later costs, e.g. mammography and prostate screening, and childhood immunizations. Some cover certain medical conditions , spreading the cost among thousands of individuals-- e.g. prostheses, cleft palate, alcoholism, mental illness, and diabetic supplies.

Deteriorating Risk Pool -- Small group insurers are required to cover all small businesses, regardless of type of business or the health of their employees--"guaranteed issue". This is a direct result of former practices of only insuring the healthiest employees in low-risk businesses. Many agents have continued to market individual health insurance to employees if they are healthy enough to qualify for decent rates. Often small businesses are only told about group insurance if an employee's bad health prices them out of individual coverage. Clearly, many healthy individuals have left the small group market. Small group insurers would like to counter by pricing premiums based on health. The sickest would be priced up and out.

With which value statement do you most agree with? Those who use the most services should pay the most. OR The purpose of health insurance is to pool risk. Contact your legislators and let them know your opinion.

For more information on the more than 30 health bills under discussion at the legislature, contact Carrie Curtiss at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, 303-839-1261 or