Kerry Donovan

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, urges fellow senator to help address high insurance costs by easing the requirements to form insurance cooperatives.

The state Senate sent a bill to the House to help Coloradans band together to demand cheaper health care and insurance premiums.

Senate Bill 4 is sponsored by high country legislators whose constituents pay some of the highest insurance costs in the state, based on the way insurers calculate the regional rates. Fourteen counties have only one insurance company selling policies to individuals, according to the state.

"The concept is quite simple," Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway said of the bill. "If we consolidate consumers' purchasing power, we can demand better prices."

Hardest hit are those who earn too much to qualify for credits in the Affordable Care Act, which means the pay an outsized portion of their household income on insurance, he said.

The law already allows small businesses and professions to form cooperatives to buy insurance and negotiate prices with doctors and hospitals. Senate Bill 4 removes barriers to individuals to form a group, including changing membership requirements and membership thresholds.

After Wednesday's 34-1 vote, the measure goes to the House, where it's sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle.

Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, the Senate sponsor, said the collective bargaining option is one of several bills aimed at providing relief to her district and other rural areas paying higher premiums than the Front Range.

"The problem has become so significant and severe that it's clear that we need to look at cooperatives as a way to return some power to the people," she said. 

"This problem is so large we need to provide as many answers as possible, and so this is another answer for individuals to come together and form a base of negotiation."

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