Charles Ashby, The Daily Sentinel
Now that the Democrats will control both chambers of the Colorado Legislature and have retained the governor’s office, some of the health care ideas they tried to enact in recent years will find new life when lawmakers return to Denver on Friday.
One of those measures is expected to call on the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies to study the idea of creating a Medicaid buy-in option for people who don’t qualify for that program.
That idea was introduced by Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, during this year’s session but failed to get traction in the Colorado Senate.
The measure, which requires getting a federal waiver, also calls for studying the creation of some sort of public-private partnership or a community or regionally based option for health care coverage.
Such a measure cleared the Democratic-controlled House during this year’s session only to die in the first committee it met in the then GOP-controlled Senate, where Sens. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, and Don Coram, R-Montrose, were the sponsors.
Donovan said she expects to support that idea again next session, and offer, at least as a temporary pilot program in a separate bill, to help similarly situated people, but only in select areas of rural Colorado.
“(Roberts’) bill is study, implementation and applying for a waiver to do such a program, then my bill starts the process by rolling out a pilot program in the most expensive areas,” Donovan said. “The details of that are yet to be determined.”
That could look a lot like a measure Donovan and Roberts teamed up on during this year’s session that also stalled in the Senate.
In that effort, the two wanted to create a one-year program to provide financial assistance to those who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but have an annual income of between 400 and 500 percent of the federal poverty level.
That measure, which was capped at spending no more than $6 million in one year, cleared the House this year, but was killed by the same Senate panel, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee that nixed Roberts’ bill.
Adam Fox, director for strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said he’s hopeful both measures will fare better when the new Legislature convenes the 2019 session.
“I think, especially for folks on the Western Slope, some of the bills that may attract the most attention are bills that are looking to create new coverage options,” Fox said. “It’s likely that they still will be in the form of study bills like we saw last session, and that will center around creating a state-based coverage option that will allow Coloradans to purchase Medicaid coverage. There are obviously a lot of questions as to how that gets structured.”
Several other health care-related bills are expected to return next year, including a proposed reinsurance program to encourage insurance companies to expand coverage, and measures addressing cost transparencies when it comes to drug costs and out-of-pocket expenses.
The reinsurance idea introduced last year by Donovan, Coram and Reps. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, would have created a $270 million state fund to help abate the cost of high claims to insurance companies. The Colorado Health Initiative has said the idea has caused premiums in areas where it has been used to go down by as much as 20 percent in states that have implemented similar programs.
Another measure that has cleared the House numerous times in recent years only to die in the Senate will return.
The proposal, which Catlin introduced last session and will again next month, would allow patients to choose whatever pharmacy they want rather than be dictated by insurance plans about where to get their medications.
The Legislature also is expected to debate a couple of measures addressing the opioid problem again next session. Some of those ideas include initiatives to improve access to behavioral health centers, and diverting funds for jail-based and court-ordered substance abuse treatment programs.
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