Health Care in the Next Colorado Legislative Session

The intersection of politics and health care comes to light in legislative sessions when elected officials review and vote on laws that impact our health care. The Affordable Care Act is a federal law, but there are more issues under review at the state level.

Here in Colorado there are several health issues up for debate in 2013’s legislature.

Last year many health care issues in the Colorado legislature were on hold while we awaited the decision of the Supreme Court on the validity of Obamacare. The Supreme Court upheld the law in June. The recent presidential election settled many major questions and issues about the future of health care reform at the federal level. In Colorado, voters elected a majority of Democrats in both the Colorado House and Senate.

So, does that mean that the health care debate in Colorado is over? Not quite. There is some unfinished business.

Obamacare required states to expand Medicaid coverage. The Supreme Court ruled that the expansion is optional. The Colorado legislature will consider a bill to expand Medicaid eligibility in January.

Legislators hold strong differences of opinion about the wisdom of Medicaid expansion. Because the Medicaid program is funded by both federal and state dollars, much of the debate focuses on whether Colorado can afford to pay its share of any Medicaid expansion.

From its beginnings, Rocky Mountain Health Plans (RMHP) has provided health coverage to Medicaid recipients. At RMHP, we think the Medicaid expansion makes sense, IF the state can find the money without raising taxes and the Medicaid program undergoes fundamental payment and health system delivery reform.

Simplification of Colorado’s health insurance laws is another piece of unfinished business. Obamacare eliminates health status as a factor getting health care coverage. The federal law also standardizes health benefit plans and establishes benchmarks for the amount of out of pocket expenses paid by an enrollee. As a result, Colorado has a number of unnecessary laws on the books. The legislature will consider a bill to simplify and clean up health insurance laws.

We also expect to see a number of bills dealing with drugs and pharmacy issues, bills addressing provider contracts, and bills dealing with medical liability.

The legislature started in early January. No doubt there will be many health care bills introduced in addition to those mentioned above. We’ll update the list next year when we have more news.

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