Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

They were really good cookies.

Perhaps I should explain. You see, as my regular reader will recall (hi Jeff), back in 2008 I was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House down here in the Colorado Springs area. And as you may also recall, the Dems' national convention was held in Denver that year. As it turns out, it is really cool to be a congressional candidate at a national convention in your home state. It was a very special and marvelous week, filled with amazing memories. I got to have a one-on-one conversation with one of the most remarkable people in the last 100 years, Congressman John Lewis. I got to hang out in the bowels of Mile High Stadium (the new one). And I went to a number of really fun and fascinating events, culminating in watching Barack Obama give his acceptance speech. I also got to hang out a bit with a guy, also running for Congress for the first time named Jared Polis.

Jared was hosting an event in support of his own health care plan, and I attended, because his ideas made a lot of sense to me, and because I liked the guy and wanted to support him. He had kindly donated to my campaign, even though my defeat, in heavily GOP Congressional District 5, was just about as assured as was his victory in heavily Dem CD 2. In fact, I remember joking with him, asking how it felt to know with almost certainty that he was going to be a congressman. He acknowledged that he liked his odds. 

About a week later, back dialing for dollars in my campaign headquarters, a nice tin of baked goods arrived from Jared, thanking me for attending his event. And these were good cookies, let me tell you. Jared had impressed me then, as he does now, as being wicked smart and exceedingly kind, and the cookies were yet another confirmation of his good will and attention to detail.

I thought of those cookies when I read a story on Colorado Politics that discusses, well, just about the most boring possible thing in governance, insurance policy rates and regulation. The Common Sense Institute recently released a report on what has been happening with Colorado insurance rates recently. It appears that Polis has been pretty darn effective in reducing costs while improving care. Back in 2019 (you remember 2019? It was the last time you went out to eat) Polis signed a bill that created a “reinsurance” market that separated out high-risk, high-cost insurance buyers into a separate pool of folks, with subsidies, in the hopes that the action would reduce overall insurance costs.

Well, it worked. 

The Colorado Division of Insurance reported that in the first year of operation, the new law reduced costs 18.1%, which is pretty darn impressive. Colorado, once ranked 27th-lowest in insurance premium costs, rose to 6th-lowest, with the average rate falling by 28%, putting money back in Colorado pockets.

And things may soon get even better, as federal stimulus dollars will increase the subsidies for those most in need of help in paying for insurance. The benefits have been most pronounced in rural and mountain communities, areas all too often given scant attention in Denver, with costs dropping 37% in the western parts of Colorado and 23% in the east.

These are all good, if stunningly boring, numbers. Overall, Coloradans are also getting more choice, having gone from 22 counties having only one company offering insurance just a year ago to having only 10 counties today facing such a challenge. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.

I bring up this insurance stuff for a couple of reasons. A recent report found that 66% of personal bankruptcies were a result of medical expenses. I know of at least two friends who had bankruptcies tied to a medical crisis: in one case, just a badly broken leg. But I also am droning on about insurance to point out a common theme in my essays: governance is often most important when it is, frankly, the most boring and tedious. Perhaps in the next election Polis will have a TV spot showing a grateful family, happy to have insurance coverage. But I’m guessing that advertisement won’t dive into the details of split pools of high-risk insurance purchasers with ongoing … wow, I’m already boring myself. I am glad this stuff isn’t boring to Polis.

I have written before about show horse vs work horse elected officials. The show horses care about getting attention and praise, and the work horses, well, they just work. The work Polis has done to reduce insurance costs shows that he continues to be a work horse for Colorado. I am glad we have him, and if you ever get a tin of cookies from him, they will be top notch as well. 

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

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