Colorado healthcare, prescription drug bills are now laws

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday signed into law legislation requiring insurers to offer a standard state-supervised health plan to people and small business. The law also provides for sanctions for hospitals and other healthcare 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 during the just-concluded legislative session 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 healthcare providers. The plan will be developed by the state, insurers and healthcare providers by Jan. 1, 2022. It affects about 15% of Colorado’s insurance market.

Advocates argued the initiative will expand healthcare 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.

healthcare 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 healthcare exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, provide free reproductive healthcare to immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, cap insulin prices and bolster mental healthcare, among many other initiatives.

At a Tuesday forum about the recently concluded legislative session attended by Polis, Kelly Brough, CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, took Democrats to task over the health insurance bill, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Brough said she believed the plan could save individuals money but also could increase prices for those who get insurance through large employers.

“Many of our lawmakers know this,” Brough said. “For many of them, it was more important to create the perception that the problem was being solved than to rather, actually solve this problem.”

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