Mary Shinn, The Durango Herald
Durangoans Jan and Greg Phillips paid more than $24,000 in health care premiums last year for insurance they purchased through Rocky Mountain Health Plans.
“Each year it keeps getting worse,” Jan Phillips said of the health care costs.
Despite the high price they spent on premiums, the two didn’t spend enough on medical expenses to reach their deductible of $13,000, so they had to pay an additional $1,500 in medical expenses out-of-pocket last year.
Jan Phillips said she suspects the costs are high because both she and her husband are in their early 60s. They don’t qualify for federal subsidies that would offset their costs and aren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare, she said. The two also run a small business and must purchase their own insurance.
The couple must also purchase more expensive insurance plans that adhere to the Affordable Care Act because Jan Phillips has rheumatoid arthritis, a pre-existing medical condition.
However, she said she goes to the doctor only once a year for her rheumatoid arthritis and manages it well with medication.
“We are really healthy people,” she said.
Jan Phillips said she would like to see a national Medicare-for-all system, because she believes it would help make health care costs manageable and predictable.
“People are living in fear when it comes to health care (costs),” she said.
A survey released Friday found the Phillipses are in the majority when it comes to facing high health care costs. The survey found 58 percent of 970 Coloradans surveyed in December and January were burdened by health care cost during the past year.
“It shows why health care is and continues to be one of the No. 1 issues for Coloradans,” said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. The survey was released by CCHI and the Health Care Value Hub of Altarum. Altarum is a nonprofit research and consulting organization.
The survey included 563 respondents in metro Denver and 381 respondents from outside the metro area. Nearly two-thirds of residents surveyed outside metro Denver said they were burdened by high costs.
State health survey results
The survey defined those who were burdened as residents who were uninsured because of high premium costs and those delaying or foregoing health care because of the cost. It also included residents who struggled to pay their health care bills.
More than half of those surveyed outside Denver reported foregoing medical care in different ways. More than 40 percent delayed going to a doctor or having a procedure done; 38 percent avoided doctors’ visits or procedures altogether; 37 percent skipped medical treatment; 21 percent did not fill a prescription and 19 percent cut pills in half or skipped doses of medicine.
Health survey outside Denver
The survey also found a vast majority of residents outside Denver – 82 percent of respondents – agreed the health care system needs to change.
Retired pediatric physical therapist Cindy Kraushaar said her insurance through Connect for Health Colorado is affordable but has been a “nightmare” to navigate after it was improperly canceled last April. She is still working to resolve issues with her insurer.
She supports the Affordable Care Act, which set up Connect for Health Colorado, because it provided coverage to a friend who otherwise would likely have had to sell her house to cover her medical treatment. Still, she sees room for more reforms. She is optimistic about change in Colorado led by newly elected Gov. Jared Polis, but she would like to see change on a larger scale.
“I am really for a national single-payer plan, and I think there is some momentum for that across the country,” she said.
She is interested in an insurance system, similar to Medicare, that would cover medical care across state lines so that residents can receive the care they need, she said.
“What I want to see is people in Congress get smart people to work on this,” she said.
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