A state Senate committee on Monday night introduced a bill aimed at creating a lower-quality, high-quality option for individuals and small businesses to buy health insurance on the Colorado Stock Exchange after lawmakers heard seven hours and more of statement.
Representative Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, are sponsoring Bill 1232. If passed, the bill would direct Colorado Insurance Commissioner to create a new plan. of standardized health benefits for January individual markets and small groups in the state health insurance exchange.
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Senator Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, called on the Health and Human Services Committee to introduce Bill 1232 around 10:30 p.m., predicting more negotiations between lawmakers and the health care industry on Tuesday.
“This bill has been marked by a remarkable commitment,” Donovan told the committee. “I think we have the potential to continue like this, making concessions on each side of these complicated conversations.”
In the long hearing, dozens spoke out strongly in support of the bill, while others strongly opposed it. The committee is scheduled to reconsider the bill for amendment and consideration on Wednesday.
Prospects varied widely for more than seven hours of testimony. Some called the bill a necessary measure to provide an affordable, high-quality option for individuals and small businesses struggling to pay for health insurance and health care or not.
This group included Ross Brooks, CEO and patient at Mount Family Health Centers, which serves 21,000 people in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties. More than a third of these patients (about 7,500 people) do not have insurance. “It’s not any kind of low-deductible health insurance, or health insurance,” Brooks said.
Brooks said he and the Colorado Community Health Network, which represents health centers that serve more than 800,000 people statewide, are strong supporters of the bill. He predicted that his standard benefit plan, with an 18% reduction in the premium over three years, would allow half of Mountain Family Health’s uninsured patients to buy insurance.
“That’s why I’m a strong advocate for legislation, to get people to have access to affordable health insurance and care,” Brooks said.
Others who opposed the bill predicted it would place a significant burden on hospitals and doctors, reduce innovation, reduce reimbursement rates, make it harder to hire medical professionals in Colorado, and ultimately threaten the care and community services. They also argued with some parts of the bill that would require providers to care for patients with the new standard benefit plan and determine how much they are paid for that care.
At various points, the testimony focused on the healthcare industry’s ability to cope with the 18% premium reductions that would be required in three years for the new standardized plan, the sustainability of bill reimbursement rates, and hospital prices and profitability.
Some noted that studies of Colorado hospitals are among the most profitable in the country. Others argued that their margins are significantly lower, pointing out to the point that health insurance premiums have already dropped by about 28% in Colorado (so far they are among the lowest in the country) and they predicted that the bill would have “serious consequences” for the state health industry.
Not so, countered Tamara Pogue, a Summit County commissioner and former CEO of Peak Health Alliance. The nonprofit insurance purchase partnership was formed to meet the high costs of Summit County health insurance and has since expanded to six other Western Slope counties. Pogue said the alliance reduced premiums by at least 20 percent, while expanding benefits, lowering deductibles and increasing preventive care coverage.
“And somehow we managed to do all this without closing a rural hospital, without closing a consultation,” Pogue told the committee. He encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill without further amendments. “Don’t be fooled, I believe in a free market approach to solving this problem. But I’ve also learned that this is not an industry that can be corrected or self-regulated or self-regulated without the spirit of government, ”Pogue said.
House Bill 1232 saw a complete rewrite before moving from the House Health and Insurance Committee to ending opposition from major industry groups such as the Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Association of Health Plans. . The bill authorized the House with a 40- to 23-party vote early last week.
The previous version also called for the creation of a new standard benefit plan for individual and small group insurance markets, which would encourage carriers to reduce premiums by 20% in two years. Still, it would have authorized state officials to create a quasi-governmental authority to offer this standard plan as a competing “Colorado public option” if these premium reduction targets were not met.
The amended bill would direct the Colorado insurance commissioner to work with stakeholders to create a standardized health benefit plan, and insurance companies should offer that standardized plan, now called the Colorado option. , in counties where they currently offer coverage, with premium reductions. adding up to 18% in three years. The bill includes a process for the state to set reimbursement rates for caregivers in areas that do not create adequate networks or comply with premium reductions.
Tom Lotshaw can be contacted at email@example.com.