Colorado Governor, Jared Polis, has been in the news for his “roadmap” to reduce healthcare costs for all Coloradans. In this article, we dive into the latest developments: which bills are still on the table, how they plan on lowering health care costs, and whether there’s still enough time and money to make this a possibility.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis stood outside of Denver Health Medical Center almost a month ago laying out his “roadmap” to save people money on health care.
As the Boulder Democrat ticked off his list of plans, both short term and long term, it quickly became apparent that most of the governor’s ideas to lower health care costs in Colorado weren’t possible unless state lawmakers passed a series of bills.
Democrats and Republicans have come together to create the beginnings of a public option health plan and make hospitals turn over more of their financial data. But with a week left in the 2019 session, several items on the governor’s list still haven’t passed and the big question remaining is whether there’s enough time, money and political will to get the rest of them across the finish line.
A high-priority bill that might not make it through in the final days of session is one that has lowered people’s premiums in other states by essentially providing an insurance plan for health insurance companies to help offset the costs of their most expensive patients.
It’s called reinsurance, and its sponsors basically rewrote House Bill 1168 for a third time Thursday afternoon.
“It’s always been an issue of how to pay for it,” said Sen. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, as he presented the latest changes to a Senate committee.
Colorado wants to get matching dollars from the federal government for its reinsurance program. The first version of the bill was unlikely to win approval from the Trump administration, and the funding mechanism on the second jeopardized other federal dollars.
Rankin and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, were frank with their colleagues that the new way to fund the program isn’t ideal, but Donovan said it’s the best way they could find with time running out on the 2019 legislative session.
The new plan is to have Colorado hospitals contribute $40 million, take $26 million from a premium tax that would otherwise go into the general fund and potentially take another $15 million to $40 million from a fee that was originally meant to raise money for affordable housing.
“We don’t want the program to die,” Rankin said. “We want to use every possible avenue to get this program moving.”
Reinsurance is waiting on a vote by the full Senate.
Prescription drugs from Canada
Polis and other Democratic lawmakers see our neighbors to the north as a potential cure for the high drug prices Coloradans pay every day.
That’s why Democrats introduced Senate Bill 005 on the first day of the 2019 session. It directs the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to create a program to buy prescription drugs from from licensed Canadian suppliers and then distribute them to pharmacies and hospitals across the Centennial State.
The bill passed the Senate a month ago, but it has yet to clear the House.
Colorado would need a waiver from the federal government to legally bring those drugs across the border, and it’s unclear whether the White House would allow that. Both the Bush and Obama administrations rejected requests from other states.
Prescription drug transparency
Another bill aimed at lowering the price people pay at the pharmacy is running out of time.
House Bill 1296 would authorize the state Department of Insurance to collect data from every part of the prescription drug supply chain, analyze it and report annually to lawmakers on ways to reduce costs. It also would require drug companies to publish certain price increases on the DOI’s website 30 days before they go into effect.
The bill has yet to get a vote from either chamber.
Two different bills — one from each chamber — would limit how much money patients can be charged for out-of-network services they likely unknowingly received during an in-network hospital visit.
They’re called surprise or balance bills, and this is the fifth time lawmakers have tried to pass some kind of legislation to address them. House Bill 1174 appears to be on its way to becoming law; it’s awaiting a final vote in the Senate.