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Roberts, Donovan to unveil legislation Thursday to create Colorado public option

Local lawmakers say legislation gives the health care industry ample time to lower costs

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis addresses a small crowd in May 2019 in Lionshead Village before signing a bill alongside Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Dylan Roberts. Donovan and Roberts sponsored legislation that aims to decrease the cost of health insurance for mountain residents.
Chris Dillmann/Special to the Daily

The goal of the Colorado Health Insurance Option is simple: save people money on health care.

The legislation aiming to achieve that goal will be unveiled on Thursday by Eagle County’s two local state legislators, Rep. Dylan Roberts and Sen. Kerry Donovan, along with Rep. Iman Jodeh of Aurora.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. The idea has seen a year delay due to coronavirus and more recent delays in an effort to foster more collaboration with various parties involved.



And with something that can shake up the health care industry in Colorado, the goal is not to rush it.

Donovan, in an interview last week, was eager to unveil the legislation but also said she’s happy to give it more time if it gets the health care industry to a position of support.



Roberts said an element of the legislation that has been changed over the last year has been the timing.

“We’re going to give them a full two and a half years to achieve lower prices and more competition in our state, without government mandates,” he said.

Colorado Public Option fact sheet graphic

Another choice

The idea of the legislation is to create another option on the insurance market, which people will have an option to purchase, much like the current insurance that’s available. Roberts said the idea has been of particular interest to him as both Eagle and Routt County do not have multiple choices of health insurance providers.

“The idea is to just give another choice so that we have competition, that will bring prices down for everyone,” Roberts said. “It’s simply just another choice … It’s a basic free-market principle that I believe in, that competition is good, and when there’s more choices, prices are more fair.”

Along with Eagle and Routt, eight other counties in the state do not have more than one choice of health insurance providers. The counties are on the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains.

“It seems to affect rural Colorado more than anywhere else, so those will be the parts of the state that directly benefit from increased competition,” Roberts said.

Colorado Public Option fact sheet graphic

Unsurprising opposition

The bill, however, will have a first phase in which current insurance industry providers are given some time to try to lower prices in the open market. Roberts said that part, if passed, could have ramifications that impact the whole state.

“Everyone would benefit if the industry is able to reach a deal on their own to lower prices,” Roberts said.

The bill aims for a 20% reduction across the state by 2025.

A group called Colorado’s Health Care Future, which is part of a national group called Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, is fighting the proposal. Nationally, America’s Health Care Future fights efforts to expand public health care options.

Colorado’s Health Care Future launched a television advertisement in early March calling the proposal “a one-size-fits-all new government health insurance system.” The group says the 20% cost reduction targets are financially unattainable.

If those targets are not attained under the proposal from Donovan and Roberts, the state of Colorado will offer the Colorado Health Insurance Option.

With ads already running against the Colorado option, it could be an exhausting couple of years. But it’s not surprising to see opposition, Roberts said.

“We are proposing something that will change the status quo a little bit,” he said.


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