Colorado Senate committee takes up health insurance bill
Testimony in Health and Human Services Committee expected to continue late into Monday evening
A Colorado Senate committee started hearing testimony for and against House Bill 1232 on Monday.
The bill aims to create a lower-cost, higher-quality standardized benefit plan for people and small businesses buying health insurance in the individual and small group markets on Colorado’s exchange.
In opening remarks to the Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, a cosponsor of the bill, said she did not expect to work on health care issues when running for office.
“I thought I would come to the Capitol and work on agricultural issues, water issues and ski resort issues … but the (people) outside of this building had a different plan for me,” Donovan told the committee.
“Over the next months, almost every door I went to, asking for people’s support through the seven counties I was trying to get elected in, said, through various stories, you need to go work on broadband and you need to go work on health care,” Donovan said.
Donovan cosponsored House Bill 1232 with Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora.
Pointing to a stack of folders of health care bills that she has worked on, Donovan said House Bill 1232 is the continuation of almost 10 years of work on health care in the Colorado General Assembly and the next meaningful step for it to take.
“… One of the final nuts that we have yet to be able to crack, and that is, in the individual and small group markets, how can we make sure that particularly in my part of the state and in other rural areas of the state, how can we make sure that there is an affordable plan and that there is consumer choice,” Donovan said.
If passed and signed into law, the bill would direct Colorado’s insurance commissioner to create a new standardized health benefit plan by January, to be offered for the individual and small group markets on the state’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.
Insurance carriers would have to offer that standardized plan — now being called the Colorado option — in the counties where they currently offer coverage, at rates at least 6% less than plans they offered in 2021. Additional premium reductions of 6% would be required in 2024 and 2025, totaling 18% over three years.
The individual market and the small group market together total about 15% of the health insurance market in Colorado.
House Bill 1232 cleared the Colorado House along party lines on a 40-23 party-line vote on Monday, May 10. It saw a complete rewrite in the House before passing, aiming to end the opposition of major health care industry groups like the Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado Association of Health Plans, Rural Health Alliance, American Academy of Family Physicians and Children’s Hospital.
Amanday Massey, executive director of Colorado Association of Health Plans, told the Senate committee her group still has significant concerns about the bill, arguing the industry has already reduced premiums by 28%.
Other groups like UCHealth, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, Colorado Medical Society and Colorado Chamber of Commerce lined up early Monday evening to argue against the bill.
Supporters argue the bill is needed to provide a more affordable, higher quality health insurance option for individuals, families and small businesses, struggling to pay for insurance and get needed medical care, and fairly compensate health care providers.
Opponents argue the bill will stifle health care access and reduce quality and uncompensated services, fail to reduce costs, and make the state a less attractive place for health care providers. They also question where the required 18% savings will come from, the adequacy and fairness of reimbursement rates for providers, and mandates that health care providers accept patients on the standardized plan.
Testimony on the bill in the Senate committee was expected to last for at least six hours Monday evening.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at email@example.com.