At Peak Health Alliance, this new year marks the end of our third year of health insurance enrollment in Summit County. As chairman of the organization’s board of directors, this is also a great time to reflect for a moment on where the organization began, how it changed the health insurance landscape, and what lies ahead. It’s an even better time to share it with you, the community where we got our start.
Not so long ago, Summit County was known as the most expensive county in the nation to purchase health insurance. It was a dubious distinction that defied logic for a county that usually topped the list of the healthiest countries.
But with crisis being the mother of invention, this statistic prompted Summit Foundation board members to get to work and find relief for our community. So we created a small working group to see what could be done.
It seemed Herculean at the time, and there were many days when we felt powerless to solve something locally. In fact, almost everyone from industry to government told us that we were dreaming — big changes simply couldn’t be made at the local level.
Our small group of locals persisted. And little did we know at the time that with a little help from local and state elected officials and industry friends, we were about to build something truly unique not just in Colorado, but in the country.
Today, Peak Health Alliance serves nearly 9,000 members in eight counties, and we estimate we’ve saved communities $10 million in premiums. We are proud to have received recognition and support from national organizations like Arnold Ventures and this year a substantial grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to advance our efforts in even more communities.
In sum, the reflection here is a source of great pride for our team and those of us who believe that change is possible. We have created an innovative and one-of-a-kind health insurance purchasing cooperative that has yet to be successfully duplicated. It’s a feather in the hat for all of Summit County.
For the future, it is true that we have some correctives to make: one is to push our operator harder to better serve our members and our suppliers, because the difficult position in the middle is not always pretty.
The truth is, we knew from the start that a new model wouldn’t be without its challenges, and it’s our job to do good for our members, even as we grow. But looking beyond the inevitable growing pains in a complex and often confusing industry, our mission to improve health care options for communities lives up to it.
Another Peak board member recently described it best: “Everyone in healthcare has someone watching and protecting their interests, whether it’s Big Pharma, insurance companies or hospitals. Finally, someone actually cares about the people who use health care.
You are our members. Here’s to a happy and healthy new year.
Don Dankner is Chairman of the Board of Peak Health Alliance. A longtime member of the community, Dankner is also a co-founder of the Mountain Scholars Program at Colorado Mountain College for first-generation students and is a past member and chairman of the board of directors of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center. He lives in Breckenridge with his wife, Susan Propper.