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Colorado Health-Insurance Option Advances in House

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Thursday, April 29, 2021   

DENVER -- The Colorado Health Insurance Option plan cleared the House Health and Insurance Committee this week, but the measure looks considerably different from the bill introduced in mid-March.

Adam Fox, deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said House Bill 21-1232 is necessary because too many Coloradans either can't afford health insurance or can't use their coverage due to high out-of-pocket costs.

He noted the revised proposal still can help reduce insurance premiums and increase access to health care.

"By essentially requiring the cost-reductions and premium reductions to be achieved on these standardized benefit plans," Fox explained. "And those will provide more robust access to care at more reasonable out-of-pocket costs."

If insurance companies and health providers can't lower costs on their own within three years, the state would have the authority to set rates on a limited basis to meet consumer savings targets.

The compromise measure drops plans to create a quasi-governmental insurance option, but would create a standardized health-insurance plan structure. Critics say the measure puts too much of the cost-cutting burden on hospitals and other care providers.

Fox pointed out House Bill 21-1232 spells out reasonable reimbursement rates designed to ensure that health providers remain sustainable, but limits their ability to overcharge Coloradans for care.

He argued the measure should help protect Colorado consumers.

"Colorado has some of the highest hospital costs in the country, and also some of the most profitable hospital systems in the country," Fox asserted. "And so, this is really starting to control those underlying costs."

Fox added the proposal includes benchmarks to improve racial health equity. For example, the standardized plan could boost perinatal coverage for care before and after a child's birth, a move Fox contended can help reduce racial disparities in infant mortality rates.

Standard coverage also would be available through private insurance carriers in every county in the state, on the individual and small group market.

Disclosure: Colorado Consumer Health Initiative contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, and Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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