Southwest Health Alliance estimates it has saved $2.7 million for policyholders of health insurance plans it has brought into La Plata County when compared with the average policy offered locally.
The health alliance, administered by the Local First Foundation in Durango, has partnered with Bright Health to bring new private health insurance options not only to La Plata County, but also Montezuma, Dolores and San Juan.
The model SHA uses is based on one developed by Peak Health Alliance to serve Grand, Lake and Summit counties.
On Thursday, Monique DiGiorgio, executive director of Local First, and executives from Peak Health Alliance provided a summary of progress made by SHA on Zoom for interested businesses and their employers.
Peak Health is partnering with SHA to foster increased accessibility in Southwest Colorado to high quality, affordable health insurance plans that are Affordable Care Act-compliant.
In addition to the savings estimated for La Plata County, SHA projected that Montezuma County users of the Bright Health policies have saved $905,688. In Dolores County and San Juan Counties it estimates savings at $119,658 for each county.
“When you talk about recirculating dollars in the local economy, ... we have $2.7 million approximately recirculating in La Plata County. I’m just grinning from ear to ear because this is real money, and especially important at a time when there’s a lot of economic pressure and stress,” DiGiorgio said.
She added, “For all of us dealing with COVID and the economic impacts of COVID, there just couldn’t have been a better time to be seeing all of these savings.”
The number of enrollees in Bright Health plans organized by the alliance are 2,306 policyholders in La Plata County, 412 in Montezuma County, 106 in San Juan County and 43 in Dolores County.
“What we accomplished wouldn’t have been possible without keeping everyone at the table,” DiGiorgio said. “One of our values was making sure that anyone who wanted to participate, especially health care practitioners, could, and so we’re really pleased to say that both Animas Surgical Hospital and Mercy Regional Medical Center are both working with us. They are part of the plan and that’s really important to us.”
The alliance works with Peak Health Alliance, a nonprofit purchasing alliance, to attract new insurance companies, currently Bright Health, to the region to meet the unique needs of Southwest Colorado with high-quality, affordable health insurance options.
A 40-year-old nonsmoker who enrolled in a Bright Health’s low-cost Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement bronze plan would pay a monthly health premium of $257 compared with the same enrollee paying $417 in a typical group plan offered in Southwest Colorado.
An individual coverage health reimbursement arrangement, known as an ICHRA, offers reimbursements that are tax-free and require no minimum or maximum employer contributions.
ICHRAs, allow a business to separate its employees into different classifications with different contribution amounts for each class – for instance, employers can divide part-time and full-time employees into two separate classes – providing different levels of benefits for each class.
Besides ICHRA plans, Southwest Health Alliance also offers two other types of plans – level-funded plans and self-funded plans.
Level-funded plans are a hybrid plan that combines aspects of traditional group insurance plans and self-funded employee health insurance plans.
A self-funded health insurance plan is funded by an employer, which assumes the financial risk of providing health care for the firm’s employees. Typically, large employers that usually set up self-funded plans establish a trust fund to earmark money from corporate and employee contributions to pay for incurred health claims.
The savings created by organizing and amplifying local voices to engage insurance companies is substantial said Claire Brockbank, executive director, Peak Health Alliance.
She said: “The savings for some have been astronomical. ... Team Summit in Breckenridge – they are going to insure 16 people for a little under $30,000 when last year they were providing coverage for seven people for about $44,000. Those are kind of crazy numbers, but they are very real.”