Rural Colorado Health Insurance Forum & Stakeholder Collaboration

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Robin Waters
The Basalt Chamber's Rural Colorado Health Insurance Forum Illustrates a Model for Legislative Action
Innovation comes in different guises, and the Basalt Chamber’s success in bringing attention to serious deficits in health insurance accessibility demonstrated an innovative and effective strategic campaign model. Following the announced closure of Colorado HealthOP in October 2015 which left approximately 112,000 people across the state without insurance, the Basalt Chamber of Commerce took action. In only three weeks the small staff of one full-time and one part-time employees organized the first annual Rural Colorado Health Insurance Forum to address a deepening crisis in health insurance in rural Colorado communities. The Chamber engaged key decision-makers, influencers and providers from across the state as speakers: a current and former state senator, CO Division of Insurance management staff, hospital executives and a Connect for Health senior manager. More than 150 people attended the forum while a running video-taped broadcast enabled unlimited viewing. The forum which cast a glaring light on rate inequities among Colorado counties, narrowing options in rural communities, and the disabling contradictions between perceptions held by state regulators/decision-makers and the reality of affected citizens, was a catalyst to legislation passed this spring. The Forum was paired with an insurance fair designed to streamline information and help those newly uninsured to find coverage. Traditional campaigns incorporate long drawn-out letter-writing, petitions and visits to the halls of congress. This ambitious strategy compelled industry leaders and regulators to visit our community where they heard real-life stories and were confronted by the incongruence between their distant perceptions and the real-life impacts of policy and legislation. A follow-up annual forum is planned for the fall to track action and ensure accountability.


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