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Obamacare Exposes Health Care Problem In High Country

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Health Resources

Affordable Care Act Updates: CBSDenver.com/ACA

Health News & Information: CBSDenver.com/Health

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The rollout of Obamacare is exposing a health care problem in Colorado’s high country. Now people living in the resort communities in the high country will pay much higher rates than the Front Range.

Even Democratic Rep. Jared Polis wants an explanation. The congressman has reached out to the head of insurance for Colorado and even wrote a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday asking for help.

“Summit County has one of the most uninsured populations, some say even in the nation; particularly our Latino population; astronomical rates of uninsured folks,” Tamara Drangstveit with the Family and Intercultural Resource Center said.

The Family and Intercultural Resource Center is a charity approved by the government to help Summit County families navigate the health care marketplace. She said not one person has signed up at the center.

“None at this point,” she said. “Everyone takes a look at the rates and they just can’t afford them.”

The state division of insurance has divided Colorado into 11 geographical rating areas. Summit County joins Vail and Aspen in an area simply called “Resort.” (View The Map)

“Our health insurance rates have always been expensive. I think one of the things that the Affordable Care Act and the marketplace have brought to light are just how expensive our rates are,” Drangstveit said. “We’re seeing rates two to three times higher than a family in Denver may see.”

The state website says there are two main factors affecting the cost. There is the direct cost, such as the price of things like doctors, hospitals and prescriptions. The other is utilization — how frequently the population uses the medical system. (Colorado Geographic Rating Requirements In Mountain Resort Counties)

The problem in resort towns is that the equation doesn’t take into account tourists using doctors, hospitals or getting prescriptions, which in the winter can increase the population exponentially.

RELATED: Colorado & The Affordable Care Act

If the state decides to fix the issue, it likely won’t be until 2015.

“I think that’s unfortunate because I think a lot of folks will be turned off by the process,” Drangstveit said. “There are a lot of folks in Summit County who have serious medical conditions that need insurance badly, and we’re not going to be able to help them.”

CBS4 talked with a group that runs a similar program for the rest of the so called “Resort” zone — Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle counties. They said they also have yet to sign anybody up. (View Health Profiles County By County)

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