Colorado’s House of Representatives on Monday passed House Bill 1232, which aims to provide a lower-cost, higher-quality health insurance option for the individual and small group markets on the state’s health insurance exchange.
The measure cleared the House on a 40-23 vote.
Supporters characterized the bill as something needed to help more people afford health insurance and health care in Colorado, while opponents described it as something that will reduce access to care or even drive doctors and other providers out of the state.
“Today, the House passed historic legislation to save Coloradans and small businesses 18% on their health insurance and create a new choice for consumers,” Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, said in a news release announcing the vote. “For the Coloradans who avoid going to the doctor or hospital because they can’t afford health care, particularly for those who live in the mountains and rural Colorado where prices are so high, this bill is a giant step forward that will reduce the costs of care and increase competition.”
If passed and signed into law, the bill would direct Colorado’s insurance commissioner to develop a new standardized health benefit plan by January for the individual and small group markets on the state’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado.
Starting in January 2023, insurance carriers would have to offer the standardized plan — dubbed the Colorado option — in the counties where they currently offer coverage, at rates at least 6% less than the plans they offered in 2021. Additional premium reductions of 6% would be required in 2024 and 2025, totaling 18% over three years.
The bill saw hours of debate Thursday, lasting well into early Friday morning. It didn’t seem any less controversial Monday, with lawmakers making impassioned pitches for and against it before the vote.
Republicans in the chamber continued to question where thee 18% savings will come from, the requirement that doctors and other health providers accept patients with the standardized benefit plan and the fairness and adequacy of reimbursement rates for that care, and the impact and unintended consequences the bill will have on health care costs, quality and access in Colorado.
House Minority Leader Hugh McKean, R-Loveland, argued that the problem is too complex for government to solve.
“I think that often we as a body and we as a government think we can fix this problem. This is a complicated problem and I truly, genuinely feel like this problem is too complicated for government to fix,” McKean said.
Rep. Andres Pico, R-Colorado Springs, predicted the bill will “wreck health care in Colorado,” while Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, predicted a mass exodus of doctors from the state, reducing access to timely care.
“There will be a lot of clinics, health care practices and hospitals that cease to operate,” Pico said.
Roberts and other bill supporters argued that the status quo is not working, and that it will expand access to a lower-cost, higher-quality insurance option for people who need that now, and have been struggling to afford insurance for years, or going without it.
“That will mean more Coloradans can go to those incredible doctors and clinics,” Roberts said. He called the bill a targeted approach for about 15% of the state’s health insurance market, and argued the plan’s reimbursement rates and more Coloradans with health insurance will benefit rural hospitals and other providers. “To say we are passing a bill that would drive out providers and decrease access to care is laughable. We all know that is not the case.”
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