Health Insurance Discussion By: New Insurance Commissioner, Jim Riesberg

- 10/27/2011 -

Guest Commentary: Health insurance and the changes you should know about

By Jim Riesberg​
Posted: 10/12/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT

During a time when federal and state laws are changing the health insurance market, and premiums continue to rise, it is more important than ever that consumers accept more personal responsibility for obtaining the information they need to make better choices about their own health care needs.

Medical technology made great strides in recent years, changing the way care is provided. In many cases, that technology has been a major cost driver. New, and often costly, drugs provide a quicker cure, offer greater comfort for chronic conditions, and prolong life. Most consumers demand the best in services and technology and want their care providers to spare no cost to make them well. All of these advances come with a price, and that price is reflected in higher premiums.

I've heard the stories, both during my time as a legislator and now as Commissioner of Insurance. Most people say health insurance costs too much, and some say they have to do without other essentials of life in order to afford their health insurance. In Colorado, employees who receive health insurance through a private-sector employer pay on average more than $3,000 per year in premiums for family coverage and another $1,870 for deductibles. Employers now pay about $10,000 per employee per year, a nearly 100 percent increase since 2000.

Another alarming trend is what's happening to those reaching their middle years. The average age of retirement is 57, and many of those who retire at that age do so because of health problems. In the past, employers used to cover the cost of health insurance until the employee reached the age for Medicare, but many employers no longer can afford to do so, and their former employees now have to go without health care coverage. And because of pre-existing conditions, they aren't eligible for private health insurance.

The federal and the state governments are reacting to these concerns. Colorado was a pioneer over the last five years and continues to be a leader in developing programs that increase the number of people who have access to quality care, increase the number of health care professionals, control the cost of prescription drugs, and create more efficiency in the marketplace. Several provider networks have received national acclaim for the progress Colorado has made.

Among its core responsibilities, the Division of Insurance promotes access to affordable insurance that allows for adequate consumer choice, and provides education to Colorado consumers and regulated entities. We're embarking on an ambitious schedule of webinars and community forums to update the public on the latest health insurance trends and prepare consumers for the projected changes in the marketplace. I hope you will be able to join us at the Denver meeting on October 13 or participate in one of the webinars coming up this month.

The educational seminars will help people understand the relationship between the services they demand and the premiums they pay. They will be interactive so attendees can get their questions answered and learn how and where to find the resources they need to make informed decisions. Since positive change will only occur when people accept more personal responsibility for their own health care choices, it is the goal of the division to help provide information about the tools that are available to generate that positive result. I look forward to meeting with Coloradans who want to be ready for the changes ahead at one of these community meetings, or talking to you through the online webinars.

The Division of Insurance is hosting a free webinar on Oct. 18 at noon, and a community meeting in Denver on Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Merrill Middle School, 1551 S. Monroe St. For more information, go to

Jim Riesberg was appointed Commissioner of Insurance for the Colorado Division of Insurance on June 27, 2011, by Gov. John Hickenlooper. Prior to that appointment, he served as a representative in the Colorado General Assembly for seven years, representing District 50 (Greeley).

Read more: Guest Commentary: Health insurance and the changes you should know about - The Denver Post
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