Romer: Public-private partnership model best solution to public option |

Romer: Public-private partnership model best solution to public option

Vail Valley Partnership has actively supported innovative solutions to health care and high health insurance costs in the mountain region and has supported proposals that will provide for Association Health Plans, reinsurance, and research around a public option. We have long advocated for a “yes, and” approach to addressing the high cost of health care and insurance in our region.

As for the public option, we support a voluntary public-private partnership. Some background:

As required by House Bill 19-1004, the Department of Insurance and Department of Health Care Policy & Financing were directed to study and make recommendations for a “competitive state option for more affordable health care coverage.”

DOI and HCPF held 14 statewide listening sessions and a public comment period through Oct. 25, 2019. The final report was sent to the Colorado General Assembly on Nov. 15, 2019. It is now up to the Colorado General Assembly to determine next steps in pursuing implementation of an individual public option plan through legislation.

As reported by the Denver Post, More than half of Colorado voters are in favor of the state creating a public insurance health option and nearly three-quarters support setting limits on prescription drug costs, according to a new survey by a progressive political group.

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Strategies 360, a political consulting firm, surveyed 600 registered voters in Colorado earlier this month by phone, and the results, first reported by the Denver Post, show widespread support for health care reforms in the state. About 4 in 10 survey participants were unaffiliated voters with the rest split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats. The margin of error was 4%.

The possibility of a public option in Colorado has garnered significant attention since last year. Proponents say they are working to reduce costs for the consumer, while opponents insist that it will have unintended costs for hospitals and quality of care, with money pouring in from special interest groups opposing the model.

Still, results from the survey showed a majority of Coloradans — 58 percent — favor a public option, with 82% of liberals, 63% of moderates and 41% of conservatives supporting it. The survey showed particularly strong support — 55% — on the Western Slope, where residents have struggled with some of the highest health care costs in the country.

The final proposal maintains a public-private partnership model between the two government entities (DOI and HCPF) overseeing the public option, and the licensed insurance carriers who administer those plans — based on an understanding of voluntary participation.

Colorado currently has 22 counties served by just one carrier and the final proposal asks that carriers partner with the state to provide affordable care. However, there is additional language that authorizes DOI to require carriers to provide public options in counties without competition. Significant questions remain about how the state would determine which carriers would be mandated to provide options in counties where a voluntary second carrier is not secured.

We have reservations about mandated participation and believe it is incumbent to have innovative private programs combined with state-led investments in health insurance solutions to address the issue. We are supportive of programs that are pragmatic, market-driven, and fenced to a limited number of people to determine future viability.

We remain supportive of the concept of a public option yet urge caution, a full review of the risks, and remain skeptical of broad mandates from the government to industry. We urge both sides to find a thoughtful middle-ground solution.

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