Regulators: Health insurance is simply cheaper for Front Range folks

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DENVER (AP) — Colorado’s rural areas can’t escape higher health insurance costs because it’s costlier to deliver health care, the state Division of Insurance concluded Monday in a study on Colorado’s nine geographic rating regions.

The insurance regulators were ordered to study the problem of higher insurance prices on the Western Slope and in other rural areas. State lawmakers from rural areas have said it’s unfair that folks along the Front Range have lower costs for health insurance. They wanted to see Colorado adopt a single price for health coverage in all parts of the state.

But insurance regulators said Monday that rural health care is simply more expensive.

“Moving to a single geographic rating area will have no impact on healthcare costs, and without tackling these costs, there is little hope of bringing down health insurance premiums,” the agency concluded.

For example, the annual total health care cost per member in 2014 was 36 percent higher in a Western Slope area than it was in the Boulder area.

The agency warned that some insurers would leave Colorado entirely if forced to sell plans to all parts of the state.

“My concern is that moving to a single geographic rating area could end up harming the very citizens it is trying to help,” Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar said in a statement.

The Division vowed to come out with some recommendations to address health care costs by the end of the year.