A multimillionaire member of Congress is seeking an exemption or waiver from Obamacare for citizens of his upscale district — known for its pricy ski resorts — because he thinks they’re being forced to pay too much for health insurance.
In a letter to Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., complains that the pricing for health coverage for residents of Summit County will be a minimum of $427.80 a month, while the same coverage in Boulder is $339.18 and in Denver $296.41.
“These high rates make it much more likely that Coloradans living in these areas will choose to forgo coverage entirely, choosing to pay the federal penalty rather than purchase health insurance,” the congressman, whose worth is estimated by Roll Call at about $66 million, said.
“I respectfully request that DOI provide my office with a thorough explanation for these price differentials. Furthermore, I ask the Division take the quickest possible action to shift Summit County to Rating Area 3, which includes Clear Creek and Jefferson counties and more accurately represents the health insurance costs facing residents of Summit.”
According to a report by Health Policy Solutions, a project of the University of Colorado at Denver, Polis said he is seeking to suspend provisions of Obamacare for his constituents.
“We will be encouraging a waiver,” Polis told the research and information center. “It will be difficult for Summit County residents to become insured. For the vast majority, it’s too high a price to pay.”
The report said federal employees tasked with getting Americans to sign up for Obamacare have been unable to register a single person from Summit County, which includes the renowned Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin resorts, key components of the state’s financially significant ski industry. Vail is in the adjacent county, just down the road from Summit.
“People take one look at the rates and they walk out the door,” Tamara Drangstvelt said in the report. “This is hard for me to say. We had really hoped that [Obamacare] would bring down rates. Sadly, that’s not what we’re seeing. People just can’t afford it. Their incomes are already squeezed too tight.”
Drangstveit is the executive director of the Family and Intercultural Resource Center, which is working to enroll Obamacare members.
Said the Health Policy Solutions report: “President Barack Obama has been trying to promote the cost of health insurance as comparable to paying for cell phone service or cable TV. But the resort rates are significantly higher than $100 a month. Neither price for a silver plan factors in federal tax subsidies that customers could get, but often resort residents work so many jobs to afford housing that their incomes appear artificially high and could disqualify them from tax subsidies.”
Polis said that other than waivers, he’s out of ideas for resort areas where wealthy people own fabulously expensive homes and workers pay an inordinate share of their income for housing.
“What some counties need to do is figure out how they can reduce health care costs,” he said in the Solutions report. “Health care is less affordable in those areas and counties need a comprehensive approach.
“This has little to do with pre- or post-(Obamcare),” he said. “Health care is very expensive, and the ACA doesn’t remedy that.”
The report noted that the Summit Community Care Clinic, “the only safety-net clinic in the county,” reported 16,600 visits last year, with “a stunning 88 percent of patients” uninsured and paying only what they could afford.”
Sarah Vaine, executive director of that clinic, told Solutions: “To have to pay two to three times as much for insurance, it’s not even a choice. They’re not going to do it. It’s out of reach.”