By Libby Stanford (July 6, 2020)
SILVERTHORNE — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed four bills into law Monday, June 6, at the Silverthorne Performing Arts Center, expanding access to health care for Coloradans.
The first bill he signed, Senate Bill 20-215 the Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise, is championed by Summit County leaders.
Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, sponsored the bill, which extends the state’s reinsurance program for five years and expands coverage to those who were left out of the program.
“When I decided to run for public office three years ago, the one issue that came up most often in any of the five counties that I traveled … the biggest issue was affordable health care,” McCluskie said in an interview.
Colorado’s reinsurance program aims to drive down insurance costs by reimbursing insurers for the highest cost claims, according to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. In its first year of operation, people across colorado saved about 20% on insurance premiums on the individual market. Summit County residents have saved even more — around 47%, according to Polis — because of the Peak Health Alliance, a nonprofit insurance purchasing organization.
“The mission of Peak Health Alliance really is to make health insurance more affordable,” Peak Health Alliance CEO Tamara Pogue said in an interview. “Any strategy that does that, we support. … If there’s one thing we all know about health care, given how complicated it is, it’s going to take a lot of different strategies to really make it affordable for all of our residents.”
Pogue said the reinsurance program helps Peak Health Alliance do its job by providing a protection mechanism for insurance carriers.
“When Peak started, everyone sort of thought we were crazy,” she said. “Typically when we talk about health care, we don’t talk about local solutions to health care. We’re really grateful to this administration that they’ve recognized that these local solutions can be part of solving the problem.”
Along with extending the state’s reinsurance program, the law aims to provide more access to insurance for low-income people who receive federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. In its first year of operation, the program caused those people to spend more on health insurance than they did before, McCluskie said.
“It was an unintended consequence,” she said. “So with (the law), we have set aside dollars to protect low-income Coloradans from having that happen again.”
The law also addresses families who fall into the “family glitch,” which applies to households that had one family member eligible for health care through their employer but the rest of the family wasn’t eligible or they were eligible at a greater cost. It also expands coverage to undocumented immigrants. Funding is now in place to help those families and individuals enroll in the individual marketplace, McCluskie said.
While the reinsurance program applies to a minority of people, it helps everyone, including those who receive insurance through their employer, said Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, who also sponsored the bill.
“With this bill, we are stabilizing the entire insurance market,” he said at the event. “When we increase the number of people enrolling on the individual insurance market … we’re going to dramatically increase insurance enrollment … There will be a really positive effect on total enrollment, which is going to stabilize prices and reduce cost shifting into other markets.”
In addition to the reinsurance program, Polis signed three other bills.
- Senate Bill 20-212, Reimbursement for Telehealth Services, which requires that insurance carriers cover telehealth visits for behavioral, mental and physical health care.
- House Bill 20-1236, Health Care Coverage Easy Enrollment Program, which simplifies the process for enrolling in health care insurance by allowing people to enroll while filing their taxes.
- Senate Bill 20-033, Allow Medicaid Buy-In After Age of 65, which allows working adults with disabilities who are older than 65 to participate in the medicaid buy-in program.
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