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Roberts’ bill to create public health insurance option clears committee

January 25, 2019, 6:09 am

Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts this week saw two of his health care bills pass critical committee tests, including a bill to create a public health care option that will hopefully increase insurance competition and lower sky-high prices in places like Eagle County.

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle
State Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle

Also this week, Gov. Jared Polis announced the creation by executive order of his new Office of Saving People Money on Health Care, which he hopes will come up with creative solutions to bringing down runaway health care costs by making recommendations to the State Legislature.

Roberts and Democratic Sen. Kerry Donovan, both of whom represent Eagle County in the Colorado General Assembly, praised Polis’s order (see comments below). Here’s the Roberts’ press release on his public option bill and another pharmacist prescription bill:

Roberts’ Bipartisan Public Health Care Option Bill Passes Committee 

Coloradans Shouldn’t be Forced to Choose Between Paying for Their Mortgage or Health Insurance 
(Jan. 23) – The House Health and Insurance Committee approved a bipartisan bill by Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon and Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose to create a new affordable and competitive health option in the state of Colorado that will be available to families and individuals when purchasing health insurance. 
Currently, there are 14 counties in our state with only one option on the individual market and many counties are left with a small number of options for health insurance. This bill will increase competition in the market. 
“This bipartisan bill is a uniquely Colorado solution to a big problem we have in our state,”said Rep. Roberts. “Too many Coloradans, especially in rural Colorado, are paying too much for health insurance.” 

HB19-1004 represents significant progress towards developing a publicly supported health insurance option on the market that leverages the efficiencies of our current state infrastructure. This public option will help put affordable health insurance in reach for many hardworking families across our state. 

“Families are deciding whether to pay out of control health insurance costs each month or forgo coverage for themselves and their kids,” Roberts continued. “Providing families and individuals an affordable option will make a difference in their lives and help keep them in our rural communities. This bill is part of the puzzle; it’s done in a responsible way to create a new health insurance option in Colorado.” 
Eagle County has some of the highest cost of health care premiums in the country. 

The bill directs experts at the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Division of Insurance to create a proposal for implementing a public option that leverages already-existing state infrastructure. That proposal must be presented to the Joint Budget Committee, House Public Health and Human Services Committee; House Health and Insurance Committee, Senate Health and Human Services Committee and Joint committees during SMART Act hearings later this year. 

When exploring the creation of public option, the departments must consider affordability to the consumer, administrative and financial consideration for the state, ease of implementation and impacts to the market as a whole. 

The bill was approved by a bipartisan vote of 9-2 and now goes to the House Appropriations Committee. 

The Health and Insurance Committee also approved Rep. Roberts’ bill to authorize a pharmacist to dispense a chronic maintenance drug to a patient without a current prescription in emergency circumstances. The bill was approved unanimously. 

HB19-1077 now goes to the House floor.

Here’s the Polis press release on the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care:

Gov. Polis signs executive order establishing the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis today signed an executive order establishing the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care, led by Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera. The goal of the Office is to study, identify and implement policies that will lower health care costs while ensuring all Coloradans have access to affordable, quality care.

“Traveling across the state, we consistently heard from Coloradans about the rising costs of health care,” said Governor Jared Polis. “While we have made significant progress in expanding access to care in Colorado, there is still much work left to do to reduce costs. This Office will focus on ensuring affordability no matter the zip code.”

The Office will create and implement a roadmap for lowering the cost of health care including:

  • Reducing the cost of individual health insurance by working with the General Assembly to authorize a reinsurance program in Colorado;
  • Developing proposals for a new, lower cost health insurance options;
  • Empowering the Division of Insurance to protect consumers and support rural and mountain communities working to lower their health care costs;
  • Increasing hospital price transparency and establishing programs to reduce prescription drug prices.

“During my battle with cancer, I was lucky to be in the care of incredible medical professionals with my family by my side,” said Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera. “We want to make sure that every Coloradan can afford the same support system I did.”

The Office will also:

  • Establish a statewide interagency collaborative effort to develop common policies and strategies to reduce the cost of health care;
  • Develop policies and strategies to support innovation and efficiencies in health care systems in order to reduce health care costs;
  • Work to ensure culturally competent and equitable access to health care;
  • Improve health in Colorado by developing, promoting, and implementing policies and strategies that reduce the costs of health care by promoting public health and addressing social determinants of health.

Read the full executive order here.

Here’s a statement from Roberts and Donovan:

Governor Jared Polis today signed an executive order establishing the Office of Saving People Money on Health Care. In response, Senator Kerry Donovan and Representative Dylan Roberts – sponsors of two cutting-edge pieces of legislation that would establish a public option in the state of Colorado – released the following statement: 

“We are glad to see Governor Polis make health care one of his top priorities and we are ready to pass legislation this session to start saving Coloradans money on their health care as soon as possible. After watching our legislation to lower health care costs die on a party-line vote in recent years, we are looking forward to bringing our cutting edge solutions to save people money on health care to Governor Polis’ desk for him to sign into law and make sure that this new office can begin its mission with legislative success.

Addressing the skyrocketing cost of health care in Colorado will take commitment and leadership from all branches of government and all parties. Nothing short of hard work will solve the crisis of cost facing many individuals in Colorado. We are excited to see Governor Polis sign an executive order that sends an unmistakable message that this administration will make lowering the cost of health care a priority.”

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