Zach Stone, Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator
Last week, CCHI helped to organize a rally at the Colorado State Capitol to protect Colorado’s health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. The rally was scheduled to directly precede a Senate committee hearing on SB 3, a bill that would repeal Colorado’s health insurance marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, and move the state to the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov.
One day prior to the rally, the committee postponed the bill hearing on SB 3 by a week. Nevertheless, hundreds of Coloradans gathered at the Capitol undeterred, set on making their voices heard.
Fast-forward one week later, and about 100 Coloradans were at it again, as they gathered outside the State Capitol prior to the rescheduled hearing for a Save My Care rally. This time around, the hearing commenced as scheduled.
As the hearing began, Jim Smallwood, one of the bill’s sponsors, aimed to distance the debate on SB 3 from the larger health care fight over the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Proponents of the bill questioned the financial sustainability of Colorado’s exchange, and argued that Coloradans would still have the same coverage options available to them through the federal marketplace if Connect For Health Colorado were to be repealed.
But opponents pushed back against the disassociation between SB3 and the ACA, arguing that the two are intertwined given the uncertainty around the future of the ACA. Indeed, moving Coloradans to the federal marketplace would be a false option in the event of ACA repeal and the dismantling of healthcare.gov.
Opponents of the bill also highlighted the distinct advantages of having a state-specific exchange. “Repealing the health exchange would result in a marketplace that is less responsive to the needs of Coloradans,” said CCHI’s Policy Director Debra Judy.
Testimony on the bill continued for over three hours as consumers shared their stories and experts made their case. The lion’s share of testimony came from consumers who spoke out in defense of Colorado’s health exchange and the ACA more generally. Shelley Joy, a consumer from Lakewood Colorado, explained that Connect for Health Colorado’s assistance network was there for her when a broker lost her enrollment case:
“In a panic, I called Connect for Health Colorado. Over a period of several days, I spoke with a number of kind, compassionate and proactive assisters. Each vowed to straighten out the mess created by this agent. One went well above her pay grade to make sure that my case was being reviewed as we spoke. Because of their hard efforts, I am happy to report that I had full coverage as of January 1st of this year.”
Despite the opposition’s outcry, the bill ultimately passed out of the committee on a 3-2 party line vote, as expected. SB 3 now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. If the bill makes it out of the Senate, it is still unlikely to pass through Colorado’s Democratic-controlled House.