From adding a new state fruit to naming the Claret Cup Cactus as the new state cactus, the 69th Colorado legislative session was full of surprising changes for Colorado. Although health care legislation was a little quieter than the flora debates, it was still a year of advancements; health care legislation in the 2014 session was frequently about strengthening and building on previous efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In sum, three themes in health care included: working toward greater transparency in the health care system; preserving the progress of health reform in Colorado; and improving access to quality affordable health care.
Working Toward Greater Transparency
CCHI’s top priority this legislative session was SB14-050 “Financial Assistance in Colorado Hospitals.” CCHI worked closely with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy (CCLP), Colorado Hospital Association (CHA), and the bill’s sponsors, Senator Aguilar and Representative Moreno, to draft and pass SB14-050. SB14-050 clarifies the standards and expectations for financial assistance in Colorado hospitals. This bill is an important step for both hospitals and consumers. Hospitals will now have clear and understandable guidelines for implementing financial assistance in their own institutions. For consumers, clear and transparent financial assistance policies will help individuals responsibly pay their medical bills and get the care they need when they need it.
CCHI also testified in support of SB14-187 “Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care” which will create more transparency around health care costs in Colorado. SB14-187 creates a commission on affordable health care and tasks the commission with studying and making recommendations to address rising health care costs. The 12-member commission will focus on evidence-based cost controls and access to quality affordable health care for all Coloradans. Commission members will be appointed this summer to begin their work on this important issue.
Preserving progress of health care reform in Colorado
CCHI worked this session to oppose bills that would have undone the progress Colorado has made in implementing health reform. CCHI advocated against several bills, including HB14-1192 “Repeal the Health Benefit Exchange.” Thanks to efforts by CCHI, CCLP and health advocates, as well as legislators on the House Health Insurance Committee, this bill was struck down. This bill would have reversed the work Colorado has accomplished in the past two years through establishing our bipartisan-supported, state-based health insurance marketplace. Connect for Health Colorado was designed by and for Coloradans, with 127,233 Coloradans enrolling the first open enrollment period. If HB14-1192 had passed, Connect for Health would have closed and Colorado would revert to a federally run insurance exchange. A state-based marketplace like the one we established is a far better option because it can be more nimble and responsive to the needs of Colorado consumers.
CCHI’s Debra Judy Testifies alongside CCLP and CHA in support of SB14-050.
Improving Access to Quality Affordable Health Care
With so many Coloradans gaining access to affordable health care coverage, Colorado must work to ensure it has the health care workforce to accommodate the newly insured population. Several important bills CCHI supported this session focused on access to care such as SB14-144 “Family Medicine Residency Programs in Rural Areas,” and SB14-016 “CDPHE Regulate Freestanding Emergency Centers.” SB14-144 will explore alternatives to increasing family medicine general residency programs in rural and other underserved areas. Increasing and optimizing workforce capacity is essential to ensuring all Coloradans, regardless of geographic location, have access to care.
SB14-016 attempted to regulate freestanding ERs protecting consumers from high costs. The bill would have given Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) rulemaking authority to regulate stand-alone emergency rooms. The bill would have ensured that, as a condition of licensure, a stand-alone ER receives ambulances; is open twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week; and accepts and treats patients who the ER is able to treat, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Although the bill did not pass, the sponsors of the bill furthered the conversation on access to medical care for all Coloradans. As CCHI, and its members and partners, work toward quality affordable health care for all Coloradans, it is clear that health reform does not stop with the implementation of the ACA. This year’s legislative session was another critical step in refining and improving health care, so that all Coloradans can get the care they need when they need it.
As CCHI, and its members and partners, work toward quality affordable health care for all Coloradans, it is clear that health reform does not stop with the implementation of the ACA. This year’s legislative session was another critical step in refining and improving health care, so that all Coloradans can get the care they need when they need it.