A Colorado bill to reduce the cost of health insurance has passed through the Colorado legislature and forwarded to the governor, who has indicated it is a top priority for his office.
HB21-1232 was meant to be a full public option – that is, the state offered an insurance plan – but that was dropped during negotiations. What received final approval Monday night at the Colorado House went through several changes.
Under the bill, the state will require insurers to offer the Colorado health benefit option by Jan. 1, 2023, in all 64 counties. It will be available for the individual and small group markets, which cover about 15% of Colorados, and by 2025 its premiums must be 15% lower than the rates offered by insurers in 2021 (adjusted for inflation). medical). It will also set benchmarks for the types of care covered by the plan, including pediatric care and other essential benefits.
The sponsors of the bill hope the measure will encourage more uninsured people to buy insurance.
“Ultimately, we’ve created a ‘Colorado Option,’ which means it’s available to all Colorados who want to buy it, it’s going to be affordable and quality,” said Avon’s Democratic Rep. Dylan Roberts. noted. “And we’re no longer subject only to what insurance companies want to offer and where they want to offer it — we recognize that every Colorado resident deserves access to an affordable insurance plan.”
Health lobbyists have spent a record sum opposing the bill, saying the cost-cutting would hurt the industry financially, especially smaller hospitals. And negotiations between lawmakers and health industry representatives like the Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Medical Society have been fairly constant throughout the legislative session.
One thing the sponsors dropped was a provision that would have fined health care providers for not agreeing to the plan, although the state insurance commissioner can still force them to do so if they don’t. There weren’t enough options for people enrolled in the plan in every county.
The Colorado Association of Health Plans, which represents insurers, is still against the measure, saying there is no research or evidence to support the premium reduction targets. Executive Director Amanda Massey said in a statement that the group will have discussions with lawmakers “when this policy flounders.”
“The math doesn’t add up – the government can’t add expensive benefits to health insurance, increase hospital reimbursement rates, eliminate provider participation, and simultaneously demand lower health insurance rates,” she said.
Republicans have also argued that the bill involves the government too much in health care. Parker’s GOP Sen. Jim Smallwood called it a step toward free, government-provided health care.
“I think at this point it’s a hospital pricing bill that’s really a political decision right now much more than a substantive decision,” he said.
But the Colorado Alliance for Health Care Options backed the bill, and Center for Health Progress policy chief Ranya Hetlage in a statement called it a “victory for black and brown communities, rural Colorados.” , small businesses and so many others who deserve to be able to afford health coverage and care.
Only Washington has embraced public-private health insurance, though it hasn’t been available there in the way Democrats in Colorado hope to see.