DENVER (KDVR) — The pandemic sidelined many plans, including for some state lawmakers.
Last year, they were working on a plan to introduce a public health care option but tabled it as COVID-19 emerged.
The plan is back up for debate this year and not everyone is on board.
People supporting the effort say it will keep health care costs down, but those against it feel the state may pay a greater price in the long run if this becomes law.
“This is a bill that will create a new, more affordable insurance option on the individual and small group insurance markets. So, it’s not a plan that anyone is forced to be on, it’s available for anyone that wants to buy it themselves,” said bill sponsor Rep. Dylan Roberts.
Under the proposal for a Colorado public health care option, the state’s insurance commissioner must establish a standardized plan that offers premiums at a rate of 10% lower than they are right now in 2023 and 20% lower in 2024. If health care costs do not fall after two and a half years, the state’s competitive health insurance option would go on the market.
“They get to determine how to meet the goal of a 20% reduction by the end of 2024. If they are able to do that, then great; We’ll just move on in the future with the already-existing private plans being offered at that lower rate,” Roberts said. “If they aren’t able to by the end of 2024, then the state would come in with a public option, which would be offered by a nonprofit entity and available in every county in the state with those price reductions. So it would just become a new option on the market that would be there available alongside the private plans.”
House Minority Leader Hugh McKean believes this is not the right route for Colorado.
“The option piece of this is, does it add something to the mix, or does it take away? In this instance, I think it takes away,” McKean said.
For the option to materialize, the Biden Administration must approve a waiver to fund the plan.
McKean said he feels the option would take money away from other things the state funds if federal dollars run out.
“The challenge is that at some point, if the federal dollars don’t come, now people’s health care is competing with education, it’s competing with transportation, it’s competing with how we build things in the state. All of those things competing for the same dollars means that there has to be flexibility somewhere and we don’t have that as a state.”
The local chapter of the National Federation of Businesses (NFIB) believes a state health option would run insurance businesses out of Colorado.
“[The insurance commissioner] is going to force premium reductions and all that is going to do is exacerbate the problem because now private insurance markets are not going to be able to compete with what he’s demanding they do,” said Tony Gagliardi, Colorado NFIB state director.
Opponents say lawmakers should instead focus solely on bringing down the cost of health care. Supporters say the plan can be an affordable option that people and businesses in Colorado can choose to use.