Saturday, February 24, 2001
With high adventure comes high risk. The most dangerous things in life driving, skiing, mountain biking, Betty Grable's legs, life itself can be insured. Health insurance, however, is often forgone by Steamboat locals who put themselves at risk on the slopes and trails of the area's mountainous terrain.
"Most young people don't have it because they think they're Superman," said Sam Callahan, a disc jockey at KBCR who used to sell health insurance in Oklahoma but does not have a license to do so in Colorado.
He himself has no insurance, though he said he thrives on adventure sports and is constantly aware of the risks, both physical and financial, he is taking.
Tony Decker, who works part time at the Cellar Lounge and does not have health insurance, said young people often have trouble getting health insurance.
"If something really major comes up, there's a gap in people's coverage after college just about the time young people move to a town like this," Decker said.
Decker said he had not seen a doctor in about 10 years until recently and now has a $600 bill to pay.
However, he said the cost of health insurance over those 10 years would have exceeded the $600.
With all of the patients wheeled into Yampa Valley Medical Center in the winter, the hospital does have to deal with some patients who have no health insurance.
Carolyn Stamps, the assistant director of patient financial services at the hospital, said the hospital has a number of ways of dealing with people who have no insurance.
In addition to federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid for those who qualify, the hospital can also refer patients to state programs such as Colorado Indigent Care Program and Child Health Plan, which have income limits as well.
If patients do not meet the requirements to receive aid, they are first encouraged to pay at the time of services, though many pay in installments, Stamps said.
Paying in installments, however, can be problematic, Stamps said. One patient wanted to pay in $25 installments, but that arrangement would have stretched the payments out over a period of 43 years.
The hospital also has its own in-house charity program, which is doled out at the discretion of the hospital's financial counselor, Stamps said.
"That doesn't mean the patient won't be responsible for anything, but it does mean that we'll assist with the cost of the bill," Stamps said.
The charity is based on the hospital's revenue stream and is mandated by the state in order to allow patients to receive the CICP funds, Stamps said.
Steamboat Medical Group Office Manager Judith Lehel said few of the patients who come to her office are without health insurance.
"We see a very small percentage of people that are not covered," Lehel said.
Lehel said the medical group will also work out a payment program even if the payment is minimal.
Even those with health insurance, however, often find themselves dipping into their own pockets to pay medical bills.
Maureen Kilcoyne, who was hit in the back by another skier last month, said she had almost $400 in bills that she had to pay out-of-pocket, even though she was on her employer's insurance plan.
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