Roberts: Doing something in Colorado Legislature about rising health care costs (column)
Everyone knows that monopolies are bad for prices and that competition is better for reducing rates. That is exactly why we need more options in our health insurance market. One way to do that is allowing all Coloradans to buy in to Medicaid, otherwise known as a “public option.”
To that end, I am proud to share with you an update on a bill I just introduced in the State House that will begin the process of allowing Coloradans to have access to that public option for their health insurance: House Bill 18-1834.
I have introduced several pieces of legislation to address this urgent problem. I am especially excited about this bill and will be advocating for it in the final month of the legislative session. It will set in place a real plan to increase competition and lower health insurance costs in Colorado.
Reflecting on the urgency of the current problem of limited options, this bill has broad support from the start. House Bill 18-1384 is co-sponsored by Rep. Marc Catlin (R-Montrose), Sen. Don Coram (R-Montrose) and Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Vail). It has already passed the full House with a large bipartisan vote of 41-23 and is now moving to the Senate.
The bill requires the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Division of Insurance to study three different health insurance plan options using the state’s existing health care infrastructure. The focus will be on regionally based approaches, including an option to allow Coloradans to purchase a plan through Medicaid and what legislation to implement those plans would look like.
A Medicaid buy-in is not a handout; you would still have to purchase the insurance from the state, just like you purchase it from a private provider. However, by expanding Medicaid’s availability to all Coloradans, we would create competition amongst providers and, hopefully, a resulting decrease in premiums across the board. The same would be true for the other two options the bill would study.
The cost of health insurance is an urgent problem that needs substantial and broad improvements. In 2018, Coloradans in the Eastern half of the state faced individual market rates that rose by almost 34 percent. In the same year, Western Coloradans experienced average rate increases of 30 percent.
Residents of 14 Colorado counties only have one insurance carrier option if they are purchasing plans on the state exchange. Fewer than 50 percent of Coloradans have access to insurance through their employer, which highlights the importance of finding ways to make individual plans more affordable and accessible. Congress could help stabilize these insurance costs, but it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. That is why I am advocating for the state to start acting now.
Colorado has a history of finding unique solutions to common situations, including health care, through thoughtful and measured approaches. HB18-1384 capitalizes on Colorado’s experience with innovation by creating a more affordable, high-quality health coverage option.
Will this completely solve the problem? Of course not. But it is a start, and it is a Colorado-based solution that could benefit all. Rural Coloradans are aware that the cost of health insurance is one of our biggest financial strains. This is particularly true if you buy insurance on the individual market or if you have to purchase insurance for family members, or both. Too many families have to choose between health insurance, child care or paying their mortgage. It is time to make some fundamental change.
I have heard the concerns of the residents of Eagle County and Routt County, and that is why I am proud and eager to bring forward this bill. I will advocate for this innovative and promising piece of legislation on your behalf. As always, I invite you to contact me to share your thoughts on legislation or if you need help navigating our state government.
Dylan Roberts is the representative for Colorado House District 26, encompassing Eagle and Routt counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 970-846-3054.