Health insurance bill heading toward a full House vote |

Health insurance bill heading toward a full House vote

Bill clears House Appropriations Committee 7-4 along party lines

Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, speaks on Feb. 1, 2019, at a town hall meeting in Frisco about the high cost of health care in Colorado mountain communities. John Ingold/The Colorado Sun

A bill aiming to offer a lower-cost, higher-quality health insurance option for individuals and small businesses in Colorado cleared a second House committee Tuesday morning, and will now head to the full House for a vote.

House Bill 21-1232, sponsored by Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, passed the Appropriations Committee on a 7-4 vote along party lines.

Roberts said he hopes to see the bill on the House floor for a vote as early as this week.

If passed and signed into law, the bill would direct Colorado’s insurance commissioner to develop a new standardized health benefit plan by January 2022 for the individual and small group markets on the state’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.

Beginning in January 2023, health insurance carriers would be required to offer the standardized plan in the bronze, silver and gold coverage levels in any county where they currently offer coverage, at premium rates at least 6% less than the plans they offered in 2021.

Additional premium reductions of 6% would be required for 2024 and 2025, totaling 18% over three years. The bill would also limit future premium increases to the rate of medical inflation.

An estimated 204,000 people got health insurance coverage through the individual market on Colorado’s exchange in 2019, while 267,000 people got coverage in the small group market, which offers plans for employers with fewer than 100 employees, according to state officials. About 375,000 people were estimated to be uninsured that year.

Roberts and Donovan have said the goal of the bill is to provide people with a lower-cost, higher-quality health insurance option with better benefits and lower cost deductibles.

At the House Appropriations Committee meeting Tuesday, Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Douglas County, proposed a half-dozen amendments to cut various administrative expenses from the bill. Each was voted down along party lines.

“I think everybody agrees that many citizens are paying too much for health insurance and also for their health care … and part of the issue is the overall cost of administration and administrative costs, not only in government, but also at the provider level at hospitals, in doctor’s offices,” Ransom said. “For us to be diligent in our cost cutting is a very good example to hospitals, to doctors and to the health care industry overall.”

Roberts said the amendments Ransom proposed Tuesday were never presented to him before the committee meeting, and said that the bill was carefully prepared to determine how much funding is needed to administer the new health benefit plan.

According to its fiscal note, House Bill 21-1232 is estimated to result in expenditures of $1.5 million and 7.3 full-time equivalent positions for fiscal year 2021-2022 and $1.9 million and 8.8 full-time equivalent positions for fiscal year 2022-2023.

The bill was significantly overhauled before passing the House Health and Insurance Committee last week — with changes intended to end major health care industry advocates’ opposition to the bill.

The original version of the bill also called for creation of a standardized benefit plan, encouraging carriers to reduce premiums 20% over two years. But rather than require those reductions, it would have authorized state officials to create a nonprofit, quasi-governmental authority to offer the plan as a competing Colorado public option if the industry failed to meet those premium reduction goals — an idea that has since been removed from the bill.

Vail Health said Tuesday afternoon it still has concerns with the amended bill. “While we are appreciative of the hard work and willingness to compromise by Representative Dylan Roberts, Senator Kerry Donovan, the Colorado Hospital Association and so many others, we still have concerns with the current language as written. Until the language or the bill is final, we will withhold our formal position,” Vail Health said in an emailed statement.

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