The multi-faceted issue of health care in Colorado is questioned frequently as I tour District 59, repeated often in the calls and letters I receive.
I am the first to admit it is not my specialty for legislation, but here are some select bipartisan bills wending their way through the legislature now, compliments of my co-workers:
HB19-001 requires hospitals to report their annual spending under a transparency law. The results should show why those insured by private carriers are paying more at a time when public funds to help cover uncompensated hospital care have grown. The Governor has signed this bill.HB19-1168 creates a reinsurance program in Colorado, which will help to lower insurance premiums substantially on the Western Slope where we pay some of the highest premiums in the nation. It puts people who use their insurance frequently into a separate category so that their high costs do not raise the average of lower-need patients. This bill has passed through the Colorado House and is now in the Senate.SB19-004 modernizes the laws authorizing health care cooperatives in the state to incorporate consumer protections and collective rate negotiations. Consolidating consumer purchasing power adds competition, which will reduce costs. It is an innovative way to provide health insurance, and is already working in several parts of the country. School districts, local government entities and other groups could join the cooperative. SB19-004 has passed through the Senate and is now starting in the House. HB19-1176 creates a task force to analyze health care financing systems in the state. The task force will assess three models and evaluate how well each approach meets the needs of Coloradoans. It will evaluate the current health care system; a publicly and privately funded multi-payer universal health care system; and a publicly financed, privately delivered universal health care system that directly pays providers. Legislators can make decisions about what will work best according to the collected data. The bill is almost through the House, then will head to the Senate.HB19-1004 addresses the lack of insurance competition in Colorado, which makes health care unaffordable for many Coloradans. The bill asks the Department of Insurance and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to craft a pilot proposal for a state option that builds on existing state infrastructure. Costs could be more closely contained, and funding opportunities could be maximized. The bill has passed through the House and is now in the Senate.SB19-079 lets certain practitioners, such as podiatrists, physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, optometrists and the dentists and practitioners serving rural communities or in a solo practice, to only prescribe opioid medication electronically, with a few specific exceptions. With opioid abuse rampant, especially in rural Colorado, this prevents prescriptions from getting into the wrong hands. The Governor has signed the bill.HB19-1287 increases access to treatment for opioid and other drug addiction problems by establishing a web-based tracking system. It will provide information concerning the available treatment capacity at behavioral health facilities, medical detox centers and programs for medication-assisted treatments. This will help patients, caregivers and medical professionals find immediate help. The bill also increases the capacity for treatment in rural and under-served areas of the state. This bill is still in the House.HB19-1216 will reduce the price of insulin for people with diabetes in Colorado. The cost of life-saving insulin rose by 45 percent between 2014 and 2017, and by more than 700 percent over the last 20 years. The actual insulin has not changed significantly since 1996. People are rationing their dosage or not taking it at all, putting their lives in extreme danger. The state attorney general will be instructed to investigate. The bill should be out of the House soon, then moves to the Senate.HB19-1131 requires drug manufacturers to provide, in writing, the wholesale cost of a prescription drug to a prescriber, as well as give the names and wholesale acquisition costs of at least three generic prescription drugs, if they exist. This will help prescribers see the transparency of prescription costs, which can be shared with the consumer. This has passed the House and Senate.HB19-1241 provides scholarships through the University of Colorado School of Medicine, to provide training to students who commit to practicing medicine in rural areas that have a primary health care professional shortage. This bill is in the House Appropriations Committee.The Joint Budget Committee set aside a $13.9 million increase for services for people with intellectual developmental disabilities. This will help many, though not all, patients get off the waiting list and into treatment. It also gave $46.2 million for a 1 percent rate increase for community providers; $1 million to expand the Colorado Family Planning Program; $5 million for services for 42 additional inpatient psychiatric patients at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo; and $15.6 million for staff retention at the Veterans Community Living Center and Youth Services Facility.Several mental health bills are also moving through the House and Senate, including funding for youth suicide prevention, including increased funding from the marijuana fund for more behavioral and mental health services in schools. We are moving quickly through the Legislature right now, so the status of all these bills is changing. For more information on the bills’ content, or to see where they are in the chambers, visit leg.colorado.gov.
Barbara McLachlan represents State House District 59. Reach her at email@example.com.