Polis signs ‘Colorado Option’ health insurance bill into law on Capitol steps
Insurers are required to reduce premiums by a total of 15% over three years by 2025
A years-long fight to lower health insurance costs championed by Eagle County’s two state lawmakers is now state law after Gov. Jared Polis signed the “Colorado Option” bill Wednesday on the steps of the Capitol in Denver.
From the outset, the effort led Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, Rep. Iman Jodeh, D-Aurora, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, sought to lower the costs of health insurance premiums and create more choice for those purchasing individual or small-market group plans. Eagle County is one of just 10 counties in the state that offers only one health insurance option on the individual market.
“That’s the No. 1 issue I hear from people in Eagle County is ’my insurance premium keeps going up, and I can’t shop for anything else. I just either have to buy what’s offered or go without insurance,’ and too many people were going without insurance,” Roberts said after the bill passed through a final vote in the state House of Representatives on June 7.
The bill requires insurers to offer a standard state-supervised health plan to people and small businesses. The law also provides for sanctions for hospitals and other health care providers that don’t participate in lowering costs.
What was once envisioned as a so-called “public option” to be offered by the state became a plan passed that requires premium reductions by 2025 of 15% from plans now offered.
The law gives the state insurance commissioner the power to fine hospitals and health care providers. The plan will be developed by the state, insurers and health care providers by Jan. 1, 2022. It affects about 15% of Colorado’s insurance market.
Advocates argued the initiative will expand health care affordability, especially among underserved communities that include minorities and rural residents.
Opponents claimed it could force many physicians and specialists who refuse to participate to abandon the state. Some business groups have said insurers could increase premiums for other plans to cover any losses under the state-supervised plan.
Polis also signed into law a bill to create a prescription drug affordability board tasked with reviewing and setting price ceilings for prescription drugs.
Health care accessibility and affordability have been top priorities for the Democratic governor since his 2018 election.
He and Democrats who control the Legislature have fought to import cheaper prescription drugs from abroad, address inequities in health care exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, provide free reproductive health care to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, cap insulin prices and bolster mental health care, among many other initiatives.
This story includes reporting from The Associated Press. This story will be updated.
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