By Debra Judy, Policy Director
While the regular legislative session ended on a sad note, there were several notable health care successes during the 2012 legislative session. The Colorado General Assembly passed a bill to improve hospital financial assistance policies, the state was able to avoid Medicaid cuts and cost-sharing, and we successfully defended against attempts to roll back state initiatives expanding access to health care. While this session was not particularly “health care heavy,” here’s our recap of health care related legislation during this session.
The sad end to this session was the defeat of civil unions, SB12-002 (or HB12S-006), which has had a roller coaster history in the past ten days. The bill died on the calendar in the House, was revived in the special session, but died in House State Veterans and Military Affairs on a party line vote on Monday. CCHI supports civil unions, not only on civil rights grounds, but because parties to a civil union would have important health care rights that all families deserve.
Especially during the first half of the session, we were concerned by the continued attempts to roll back the significant strides Colorado has made to increase access to health care. Fortunately, SB12-032 and SB12-085, both of which would have undermined the Medicaid program, and SB12-053, which would have repealed last year’s law creating Colorado’s health benefits exchange, quickly died in Senate committees.
Women’s access to health care was also in the spotlight this session. The Rights of Conscience Memorial, SM12-003, would have called upon Congress to pass a law allow any employer or insurer to refuse to provide services based on a moral objection. The impacts of the federal law are not limited to women’s issues, but could lead to the denial of many health services. The memorial was ultimately voted down by a majority of the Senate. SB12-093, which would have ensured consumers were informed about whether a hospital provided certain services – reproductive care being one, but not the only, service – also failed to pass.
On a high note, CCHI worked with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Senator Irene Aguilar and Representative Cindy Acree to pass a hospital payment assistance bill (SB12-134). This law will limit the amount low income uninsured patients must pay for hospital services to the lowest negotiated rate with a private insurance company. It will also ensure that hospitals are transparent in providing patients with their financial assistance policies. SB12-134 passed through the legislature with bipartisan support and was signed by the Governor on May 7th. CCHI will continue to monitor compliance as hospitals implement this new law.
We also appreciated the discussion that occurred at the legislature on oral health and the growing recognition that oral health is integral to one’s overall health. CCHI supported both HB12-1326 to expand oral benefits for older adults as well as SB12-108 to provide Medicaid dental benefits to pregnant women. HB12-1326 successfully passed and will allow an estimated 4,000 or more older Coloradans to get the oral health care they need. SB12-108, however, got caught in the politics of civil unions and, despite our urging, was not included in the Governor’s proclamation calling for a special session.
Colorado continues to be a leader on health care. Past achievements of the General Assembly are working. Our Exchange is in the process of selecting an IT vendor and is addressing multiple policy issues. Data from the all payers’ claim database should be available by the end of 2012. The Division of Insurance continues to ensure that insurance companies are not increasing rates unreasonably. But there is more to do. CCHI will continue to work on issues that affect all Coloradans’ access to quality, affordable insurance.