Senate committee tables health insurance bill for further negotiations
A bill to create a lower-cost, high-quality option for individuals and small businesses purchasing health insurance on the Colorado exchange was tabled Monday night by a state Senate committee, after lawmakers heard over seven hours of testimony.
Senator Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, asked the Health and Human Services Committee table bill n ° 1232 around 10:30 p.m., providing for more negotiations between lawmakers and the healthcare industry on Tuesday.
“This bill was marked by a remarkable compromise,” Donovan told the committee. “I think we have the potential to keep that going, with either side of these complicated conversations making concessions.”
During the lengthy hearing, dozens of people spoke out strongly in favor of the bill, while others strongly opposed it. The committee is scheduled to return to the bill for amendment and consideration on Wednesday.
The outlook varied considerably over the course of more than seven hours of testimony. Some have called the bill necessary to provide an affordable, high-quality option for individuals and small businesses struggling to pay for or without health insurance and medical care.
This group included Ross Brooks, CEO and patient of the Mount Family Health Centers, which serves 21,000 people in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties. More than a third of these patients – around 7,500 people – do not have insurance. “No crap, high deductible health insurance, no health insurance,” Brooks said.
Brooks said he and the Colorado Community Health Network, which represents health centers serving more than 800,000 people across the state, are both strong supporters of the bill. He predicted that his standard benefit plan with 18% premium reductions over three years would allow half of Mountain Family Health’s uninsured patients to purchase insurance.
“This is why I am a strong supporter of the legislation, to give people access to affordable health care and insurance,” said Brooks.
Others opposed to the bill predicted that it would place a significant burden on hospitals and physicians, reduce innovation, lower reimbursement rates, make it harder to recruit medical professionals in Colorado and ultimately of account, threatening community care and services. They also challenged parts of the bill that would require providers to serve patients with the new standard benefit plan and determine how much they are paid for that care.
Repeatedly, testimony has focused on the ability of the healthcare industry to meet the 18% premium reductions that would be required over three years for the new standardized plan, sustainability of bill reimbursement rates, as well as the prices and profitability of the state. hospitals.
Some have pointed to studies showing that Colorado’s hospitals are among the most profitable in the country. Others argued that their margins were significantly lower, pointed out that health insurance premiums had already fallen by about 28% in Colorado – where they are now among the lowest in the country – and predicted that the bill would have “dire consequences” for the state’s health care industry.
That’s not the case, retorted Tamara Pogue, Summit County Commissioner and former CEO of the Peak Health Alliance. The nonprofit insurance purchasing collaboration formed to deal with the high costs of Summit County health insurance and has since spread to six other Western Slope counties. Pogue said the alliance has cut premiums by at least 20% while increasing benefits, lowering deductibles and increasing preventative care coverage.
“And we somehow managed to do all of this without closing a rural hospital, without closing a practice,” Pogue told the committee. She encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill without further amendments. “Make no mistake, I believe in a free market approach to solve this problem. But I’ve also learned that it’s not an industry that can or wants to self-correct or self-regulate without government encouragement, ”Pogue said.
Bill 1232 was completely rewritten before leaving the House Health and Insurance Committee to end opposition from large industry groups such as the Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Association of Health Plans. The bill cleared the House with a 40-23 vote vote early last week.
The previous version also called for the creation of a new standard benefit plan for the individual and small group insurance markets, encouraging insurers to cut premiums by 20% over two years. Still, he would have authorized state officials to create a quasi-government authority to offer that standard plan as a competing “Colorado public option” if those premium reduction targets were not met.
The amended bill would direct the Colorado Insurance Commissioner to work with stakeholders to create a standardized health care plan, and insurance companies would have to offer this standardized plan – now called the Colorado Option – in counties. where they currently offer coverage, with premium reductions. totaling 18% over three years. The bill includes a process for the state to set reimbursement rates for healthcare providers in areas that fail to create adequate networks or meet premium reductions.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at [email protected]