Universal Health Care and the Colorado Health Insurance Industry

A very hopeful Bill Ritter was inaugurated as the new Governor of Colorado on tuesday.  He campaigned about changing the healthcare system in Colorado in order to help the 700,000 Coloradoans without health insurance.  And in his inaugural speech, he reminded us that because he is “here for the people of Colorado”, he’ll actually do something to help those people.

Let’s fulfill the Colorado Promise by ending the crisis of the uninsured and enacting comprehensive health-care reform.

The political problem with actually doing something to help those people is that it can hurt corporate interests.  If he goes about solving the health care crisis in Colorado by enacting a form of government sponsored universal health care, it’ll have an enormous effect on the job market by displacing the jobs of those people in the Colorado health insurance industry.

As an agent, my personal livelihood is also supported by a healthy health insurance industry in this state.  However, my take on universal health care is that it serves the common good and I can easily broker other types of insurance products or find another job elsewhere.  An example would be how ugly it is for people in the oil industry to lobby against environmentally friendly forms of energy that reduce our dependence on the middle east.  So yes, universal health care in Colorado would require me to shift gears in my career, but overall it helps the people in our state – so I’m for it.

However, I’m not getting paid to protect the jobs of thousands of employees in my company and protect stockholder interests by keeping my corporation alive and healthy.  This is the job that the management of various health insurance companies doing business in Colorado have.  They can’t share my view, otherwise they’re not doing their job.  So you shouldn’t be surprised to see political opposition to Ritter’s ideas by candidates who prefer to serve corporate interests.  It’s how the system works.

Recently, a major entity in the Colorado health insurance industry made a proactive move by attempting to eliminate the need for universal health care coverage.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, on Monday outlined a series of initiatives in Colorado and other states encouraging the expansion of government programs to cover children and the working uninsured.

Legislators praised Anthem’s ideas but said many require money the state doesn’t have. Nearly 700,000 Coloradans, or about 17 percent of the state’s population, are uninsured.

Anthem urged the state to expand programs to cover children in families that earn up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level – or $60,000 a year for a family of four – and improve efforts to reach children who are eligible for government programs but haven’t enrolled.

The plan also would expand state health care programs to include parents in families that earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($40,000 for a family of four) and childless adults earning $9,800.

It’s a smart strategy on Anthem’s part, and a strategy the rest of the health insurance industry would be smart in supporting.  By shifting the focus to advocating that the government only cover the uninsured, the health insurance industry can:

  1. Keep it’s current market (people able to afford health insurance)
  2. Keep health care costs down and profits up by having the government subsidize the uninsured instead of the current cost shifting that places the load on the health insurance companies and thus, those with health insurance
About Jay Norris

Jay operates a health insurance brokerage in Colorado, where he helps individuals and small groups obtain and maintain health insurance coverage.
Complimenting his work as a health insurance broker, Jay also provides data analysis and creates visualizations that are easily understood by consumers and other stakeholders in Colorado’s health insurance market.

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