Colorado officials reveal public option proposal during meeting with hospitals, providers

DENVER -- Colorado health officials revealed the state's proposal to develop a public health insurance option in Colorado.

Officials did so after lawmakers passed legislation earlier this year calling for a well-researched draft.

The plan calls for a public option to be offered beginning in 2022. Initially, it will only be offered to Coloradans who buy insurance on their own, which is estimated to be around 200,000 people.

Most insurers in Colorado would be required to offer the program and hospitals would be required to accept it.

Perhaps most dramatically, the plan calls for the state to limit how much can be charged for a particular medical treatment.

The state estimates a savings of 9-18%.

"We recognize and demand that we have a more efficient healthcare system in this state. We have a great desire from people around Colorado to build premium relief into the market place," said Mike Conway, Colorado's health insurance commissioner.

During a meeting on the proposal Tuesday, some Coloradans asked why the state's proposal still involves insurance companies.

"You could have made it more affordable," said TR Reid, a supporter of a public option in Colorado.

"If it wasn't for the insurance company carrying the risk, which is huge, then we would have to carry the risk as a state," Conway said.

In the crowd were several representatives of the health insurance and hospital industry. Some expressing concern about hospitals with razor-thin profit margins.

"We represent 110 hospitals," said Katherine Mulready with the Colorado Hospital Association. "We have 21 hospitals -- again, non-rural -- that fail to meet sustainable margins over time."

Chris Brown, a policy analyst with Commonsense Policy Roundtable, said telling insurers and hospitals what to do will have an impact on Coloradans' healthcare.

"I think this could have a profound effect on the existing healthcare market," Brown said.

The proposal is still just a draft. Expect a final report to the General Assembly in November.

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