Colorado heath-care panel recommends mandating insurance
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” A state commission on health care recommended Thursday that everyone in Colorado be required to have medical insurance and that the state put more money into child health care and Medicaid.
The commission also recommended subsidies for low-income workers to purchase private insurance.
The commission was appointed by lawmakers and Gov. Bill Ritter to find away to get health care to nearly 800,000 Coloradans who don’t have insurance. Members have acknowledged their initiatives could cost millions of dollars, but they left it to lawmakers to figure how to pay for them.
“These recommendations represent a bold, yet realistic, approach to providing high quality, affordable health care to all Coloradans, a roadmap to reform,” commission Chairman William Lindsay III said.
“This is not merely a laundry list of suggestions. This is a comprehensive, integrated, interdependent package that can be implemented in stages,” he said.
Ritter, who promised during his campaign to provide access to all uninsured residents in Colorado by 2010, said the commission made good progress.
“The final product is a thoughtful package of recommendations that will inform this discussion for years to come. The commission and the thousands of people involved in this process are to be commended for their public service. My vision and goals remain the same that all Coloradans have access to some basic level of health care,” he said in a statement.
Commissioners Linda Gorman and R. Allan Jensen voted against the report and issued a minority report, saying the commission views the private sector as the source of U.S. health care woes and an expansion of government control as the solution.
“Government is the problem, not the solution,” their report said. It said health care reform requires a new government policy aimed at lowering costs by deregulation and ensuring “that individuals buying health care are not spending someone else’s money.”
Dr. Mark Laitos, co-chair of the Colorado Medical Society’s Physicians’ Congress for Health Care Reform, said the system is broken and needs to be fixed.
“Legislators must seize this opportunity to have a transparent and substantive debate on fixing Colorado’s broken health care system,” Laitos said.
The 27-member Blue Ribbon Commission for Health Care Reform offered lawmakers five proposals in their final report. One would require that people purchase insurance and prevent companies from rejecting sick applicants.
Others include a $26 billion a year plan to provide insurance to everyone in the state in a single-payer plan; a plan to provide a basic benefit package through a large insurance pool with a $50,000 cap on benefits; a plan to require all Coloradans to have health insurance; and a proposal to place mandates on individuals and employers to provide coverage or pay an assessment.
Lindsay said the commission recommended the state continue to study the single-payer plan. But he said it currently is unlikely because it would require multiple acts of Congress to waive requirements for veterans benefits, federal employees and other federal health programs.
That drew the wrath of about 100 protesters on the steps of the Capitol, who said mandating the purchase of a minimum benefits package “forces residents to pay for underinsurance and is in direct conflict with the guiding principles of the commission.”
Lindsay said one key recommendation would require insurance companies to provide coverage to any applicant who doesn’t have a pre-existing medical condition.
People who have severe health problems but earn too much money to qualify for welfare or other low-income health programs would be eligible for CoverColorado, an existing state program for people who are denied coverage by insurance companies because of their medical conditions.
The panel said employers that don’t offer health insurance should provide plans to help their workers buy coverage.
The panel said administrative costs for physicians, hospitals and insurers could be reduced by streamlining processes and combining functions.
Wellness programs could be encouraged by allowing health plans to discount premiums for people who have healthy behavior and eliminating copays for preventive care.
Lindsay said 24 commissioners endorsed the recommendations and the other three dissented.
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