Eric Galatas, Public News Service

DENVER — Colorado health-care advocates celebrated wins after the close of the 2019 legislative session, and now are working to ensure programs are implemented. Bills headed to Gov. Jared Polis’ desk include the addition of a public insurance option, a measure allowing the state to buy medicine from Canada, and the creation of a reinsurance programdesigned to lower premiums. 

The passage of House Bill 1174 should result in an end to surprise out-of-network medical bills. Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said bipartisan support for these protections has grown over the past several sessions.

“I think it’s reached a threshold now with so many consumers being hit by these surprise bills, and so many legislators hearing about it – and some of them being hit by those bills themselves – that it really pushed this issue to the forefront,” Fox said.

HB 1174 protects people with state-regulated health plans. Fox said the measure also should act as a strong deterrent, but added the issue needs to be resolved federally to protect all consumers. 

Some health measures did not advance. A proposal to increase drug-price transparency died over industry concerns about proprietary information. And a move to boost tobacco taxes to prevent addiction and fund education and health reinsurance was criticized as an unnecessary tax increase.

Fox noted while there were disagreements on some policies and on how others should be implemented, he saw bipartisan agreement on the need to address the underlying causes of rising health costs.

“There was less contention this session on health care in general,” he said. “There was a very high level of bipartisan agreement that health care was something they wanted to work on and could find some agreement.”

Some measures need federal approval before moving forward, including the addition of a public health insurance option under the Affordable Care Act. Fox argued with premiums increasing every year, especially in western and rural areas with just one or two carriers, there aren’t enough options for Coloradans to choose the health care they want.

“By creating a public option at the state level, we can sort of spur that innovation and competition and try to make the private insurance market a little bit more robust and competitive,” Fox said.

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