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Group seeks to keep premiums down

The Associated Press

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ó Businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley ranging from major corporations to mom-and-pop shops will be able to offer health insurance at competitive prices under a new cooperative.

The nonprofit Roaring Fork Valley Community Health Plan on Thursday unveiled a three-year agreement with insurer PacifiCare.

It creates a large pool of people by offering the coverage to any business in the area from Glenwood Springs to Aspen.

Rural areas have been harder hit by rising health insurance costs, partly because some insurance companies refuse to offer coverage in regions that arenít profitable.

Many small businesses cannot help employees pay for coverage while others cannot offer insurance at all.

The new program, which is being touted as a possible model for other rural areas, is expected to stimulate competition and bring more affordable coverage to the valley, said Bill Hanisch, executive director of the community health plan.

This program is a culmination of 20-months of study to find affordable coverage. Roaring Fork Valley Community Health Plan is a consortium of businesses and hospitals created in 1993 to tackle health-care issues.

A law allowing small businesses to band together through national trade associations to offer insurance is moving through Congress.