Another successful kickoff!

Another successful kickoff!

Thanks so much to all of you who came out to support me last night! I’m excited about the work we’re all going to do together over the next few months to elect some great folks to lead Colorado forward over the next few years!

And a special thanks to Dan and Dona for hosting me once again (and for all of your work to get the yard ready after Monday night’s flood)!

If you couldn’t make it, you can still donate at Kennedy4CO.com/donate.

Cary, Phil, Jena, and Dave

Good morning!

While I’m uncontested in the Democratic Primary this year, there are plenty of decisions to make on your ballot including three statewide primaries. We’re lucky to have so many great Democrats stepping up to serve our communities. Here are the folks I’m supporting:

Cary Kennedy for Governor
Cary has devoted her entire career to public education and will make it Colorado’s #1 priority. She led the charge in 2000 to pass Amendment 23, the only constitutional amendment to truly push back against TABOR and drive a conversation about our need to invest in our kids’ future.

Cary supports creating a public health insurance option for any Coloradan to choose. She also supports Medicare for All at the federal level but knows we can’t wait for Washington to make this change. We need to take action in Colorado now.

Cary is committed to managing growth wisely, protecting our public lands, and increasing our renewable energy standard to make sure all Colorado utilities are transitioning away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.

On top of all this, she’s just a great person. Her collaborative approach is exactly what we need in the governor’s office to make real progress for hard-working Coloradans.

Phil Weiser for Attorney General
I’m going to start with a fun fact. Phil started his post-law-school career clerking for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg! That’s right! The Notorious RBG!

Phil went on to work in President Bill Clinton’s justice department and President Barack Obama’s White House before returning to Colorado to serve as the Dean of CU Law School. He has worked on a wide range of issue from antitrust investigations to agricultural competition to civil rights litigation.

In these uncertain times, Phil knows that the rule of law is the biggest thing protecting our democracy from the threat of tyranny. He knows the law, and as Colorado’s AG, he will make sure to protect the things that make Colorado so special like our commitment to equal rights and our beautiful public lands.

Jena Griswold for Secretary of State
Ok, so Jena is unopposed on the primary ballot, but she’s have a tough general election in November so I thought I’d go ahead and say a few words. I met Jena when she was working on voter protection for the 2012 Obama reelection campaign. She’s smart, hard-working, and committed to the most fundamental element of our democracy – ensuring we have free and fair elections.

Dave Young for Treasurer
I have had the pleasure to serve in the State House with Dave, and I couldn’t be more pleased he’s running for State Treasurer. Dave has a heart of gold and has spent his eight years in the legislature fighting for public schools, increased services for people with disabilities, paid family leave, clean energy, gun safety, marriage equality, and more.

Dave spent most of his career as a math, science, and technology teacher in Greeley Public Schools. In the legislature, he served on the budget committee and knows our state’s finances inside and out.

As treasurer, Dave will responsibly manage our state’s investments and use his platform to advocate for TABOR reform, public education funding, and public banking.


I also have good relationships with a number of candidates for State House and Senate, so if you have questions about any of those races, feel free to email me and we can chat. For now, I’ll just plug two more folks running in Jeffco.

Kris Teegardin for House District 24
If you live in Golden, Wheat Ridge, or Edgewater, you’ve probably already meet Kris because he’s everywhere. I’ve known him since 2011 and have seen what a genuine person he is. He’s committed to making sure every hard-working Coloradan has great opportunities to pursue their dreams. He did a great job as Mayor of Edgwater, has been an advocate for underserved communities, and has been active in numerous local organizations including the Jefferson Success Pathway, the Child and Youth Leadership Commission, the Metro Mayors Caucus Homelessness and Hunger Committee, and JD1 Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. He’s a true progressive and a great collaborator. We need him in the State House.

Shakti for House District 28
If you live in southern or eastern Lakewood, vote for Shakti – the candidate with just one name! When I got to know Shakti several years ago, I noticed she was quiet and assumed she was shy. But soon I learned that she’s quiet because she listens more than she talks, and she takes it all in before making a decision. Shakti served Lakewood well on our city council and is a passionate advocate for environmental sustainability, public education, and making sure seniors have all the services they need to retire in the comfort of their own communities. She will serve Lakewood well in the State House.


So there you have my opinions, for what they’re worth. Happy voting!

Chris

 

Primary Ballots Must Be Returned by 7:00pm on June 26th
You can find a full list of candidates on the primary ballot, anywhere in Colorado, here.
If you’re in Jeffco, find all the info you need about the primary election here at VoteJeffco.us.
Haven’t received your ballot? Verify your registration or call your county clerk’s office.

Hickenlooper signs health care bills at Lutheran

Hickenlooper signs health care bills at Lutheran

By Clarke Reader (May 23rd, 2018)

Gov. John Hickenlooper stopped by Wheat Ridge’s Lutheran Medical Center on May 21 to sign into law three bills that aim to fight the opioid crises facing the state and those in need of mental health services.

“The opioid crises isn’t an urban or suburban issue — it’s grown into an epidemic all over the state,” Hickenlooper told the crowd of supporters, hospital staff and bill sponsors in attendance. “This has been an amazing legislative session, and this package off bills is as important as anything that was accomplished.”

SB 270 – Behavioral Health Transition Referral Program

Sponsored by Sens. Cheri Jahn (I-Lakewood) and Tim Neville (R-Jefferson County), and Reps. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) and Cole Wist (R-Arapahoe County).

The bill establishes a community transition specialist program in the office of behavioral health in the department of human services. The program coordinates referrals of high-risk individuals to transition specialists by behavioral health programs and organizations.

“This bill will impact my life and the life of many others,” said Evan Silverman, who has struggled with mental health issues for years. “This will put many, many people on a path to a better life trajectory.”

SB 077 – Clinical Practice for Opioid Prescribing

Sponsored by Sens. Jack Tate (R-Centennial) and Irene Aguilar (D-Denver), and Reps. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood) and Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood).

The bill restricts the number of opioid pills that a health care practitioner, including physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists, and veterinarians, may prescribe for an initial prescription to a seven-day supply and allows each health care practitioner to exercise discretion to include a second fill for a seven-day supply.

“My mother’s story of opioid addiction recovery began in this hospital, where I saw how broken the system to help those suffering from addiction is,” Pettersen said. Her mother has been dealing with addiction issues for years. “I know this is some of the most important work I’ll do in my life.”

HB 1003 – Opioid Misuse Prevention

Sponsored by Cheri Jahn (I-Lakewood) and Kevin Priola (R-Adams County) and Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood).

In 2017, the state legislature created the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee. The committee met throughout the summer and fall of 2017 and recommended a package of substance use disorder-related bills that were introduced during the 2018 legislative session. This bill would extend the committee’s charge through 2020.

“Anyone who has had firsthand experience with opioid addiction knows that it can happen out of nowhere. It is impossible to predict,” Hickenlooper said. “I’m not saying we’re done, but this is a great first step.”

Read Full Story at LakewoodSentinel.com

Opioids Package Signed by Guv

(May 22nd, 2018)

DENVER, Colorado, May 21 The Colorado House Democrats issued the following news on behalf of Colorado State Rep. Brittany Pettersen, (D-Lakewood):

Gov. John Hickenlooper went to Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge today to sign five bills to tackle opioid abuse, which has become the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50.

“The war on opioids will not be won overnight, but today we gain some ground,” said Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, who has spearheaded legislative efforts to combat an epidemic that has killed more Americans than the entire Vietnam War.

The bills signed into law today are:

* SB18-022, sponsored in the House by Reps. Pettersen and Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, limiting many opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply and mandating that medical professionals check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database before writing refills.

* SB18-024, sponsored in the House by Reps. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, and Pettersen, expanding the Colorado Health Service Corps program, which includes loan repayment and scholarship programs for medical professionals who commit to working in underserved areas where substance abuse is more likely to go untreated.

* SB18-270, sponsored in the House by Reps. Pettersen and Cole Wist, R-Centennial, coordinating referrals of high-risk individuals with significant mental health or substance use disorders to transition specialists who can provide housing services, program placement and access to other behavioral health treatment or benefits.

* HB18-1007, by Reps. Kennedy and Singer, requiring insurance companies and Medicaid to provide faster approval of medication-assisted treatment so patients with substance use disorders don’t go back to opioids while waiting for approval to begin their treatment.

* HB18-1003, by Rep. Pettersen, commissioning further study of the substance use disorder problem in Colorado.

Read Full Story at PharmacyChoice.com

What happened at the legislature this session?

The whirlwind of the 2018 Legislative Session has come to a close. It was packed with ups and downs, vigorous debates, bipartisan breakthroughs, and a fair amount of drama. At the end of the day, I feel like we actually got a lot of good work done!

Though this was only my second session as a legislator, it was my sixth session counting my years as a staffer. This session stands out from the rest for one primary reason – we decided to tackle the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, and we started by making sure there were real consequences for the unacceptable behavior of one of our own members. Read more about the expulsion of Rep. Steve Lebsock here.

Handling the sexual harassment issue the right way was very time consuming, but we kept plugging away at a number of issues throughout the session. Many of us were engaged in negotiations since opening day on issues of transportation and education funding, reforming our state pension system, and continuing the Colorado Civil Rights Division. On all of these issues, we were successful in passing bipartisan legislation that will soon be signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper.

With any big bipartisan deal, both sides have to compromise. Some of those compromises were really painful, especially in the pension reform bill. By way of background, our Public Employee Retirement System (PERA) was in need of some adjustment following a reduction in the long-term expected rate of return on our investments along with an update to our mortality tables to reflect the longer expected lifespan of Coloradans. We approached the policy with the idea of “shared sacrifice” in which employers, employees, and retirees would all need to give a little. This meant increasing the retirement age, increasing the employer and employee contributions, decreasing the annual cost-of-living-adjustment, and more. While I would have favored structuring the bill somewhat differently, we had to make some concessions to get a deal with Senate Republicans. I ultimately voted yes on the bill because I think it’s critical to protect the pension program and I was uncomfortable with kicking the can down the road another year, especially when we don’t know who will be the Governor next year.

As for my own legislation, I focused mostly on health care issues. I am extremely proud of the five bills we passed addressing the opioid epidemic and the two bills we passed to increase cost transparency for consumers at free-standing emergency departments. I also worked hard to increase cost transparency for hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, though those efforts were defeated by Senate Republicans.

Last but not least, I poured enormous effort into a bill to stabilize the individual health insurance market. For those who don’t get health care through their employment or public programs, costs have been ridiculous – largely because President Trump and Congressional Republicans have gutted the Affordable Care Act in every way they know how. My bill would have established a reinsurance program to share the risks and costs of health care more broadly across all markets rather than concentrating those costs in the individual market. I worked hard to earn the support of several House Republicans and a couple Senate Republicans, but it wasn’t enough to get Senate Republican leadership to give the bill a fair hearing. Read more about the reinsurance bill here.

This is just a small sample of the work we did this year, but if you’re interested in digging deeper, check out this report on our accomplishments and attempts this year.

Reflecting on my first two legislative sessions, I feel like I’ve learned a lot about what it means to try to make progress in a messy, complicated system. The partisanship can be frustrating and the special interest politics can be pretty gross, but there are moments that give me hope. When you work hard, persevere after failure, and focus on building constructive relationships, there is common ground to be found. So, I’m going to keep plugging away and trying to make things happen. Thanks again for all of you who helped elect me to this crazy job, and I’ll be asking for your support again soon because I want to keep doing this job as your State Representative!

Coverage of Reinsurance

Marching On

By Julie McCluskie (May 28th, 2018)

This year in Colorado, activism surged.  Thousands of men, women and children marched for a variety of causes: women’s rights, climate action, public education and school safety.  This level of  engagement has  inspired many of us.  However, with every march comes the question, “Now what?”

How do we capture this passionate energy and transform it into meaningful action at the local, state and national levels?

Here’s how: we elect candidates to Colorado’s state legislature, like myself, who are responsive to the people in their communities and ready to work collaboratively across party lines to solve the problems we face.

Problems like our shortfall in funding public education. Thanks in large part to the leadership of our own Rep. Millie Hamner, school districts across the state will receive more funding for educating students than ever before. I testified for two bills that passed both chambers and now await the Governor’s signature. Both will address our teacher shortages by helping rural communities attract and retain teachers by investing in high-quality teacher preparation and residency programs. While we have not resolved the deeper challenges that keep us from long term equitable and adequate funding for public education, our legislature took steps in the right direction.

Unfortunately, there were also examples where hard-working legislators ran headfirst into unnecessarily divisive partisan politics.  Rep. Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood) and Rep. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale) carried a reinsurance bill that would have reduced insurance rates for many in our rural communities by as much as 30 percent. Healthcare costs in our part of Colorado are some of the highest in the nation and create a weighty burden for our local working families. Reinsurance, essentially insurance for insurance companies, has been successful in several other states and is a promising solution to Colorado’s high-cost insurance marketplace.

There was also the tragic failure of Rep. Alec Garnett’s (D-Denver) and Rep. Cole Wist (R-Centennial) bipartisan Red Flag Law. This law was a sensible gun safety measure that would have protected our communities from people experiencing major mental health issues. An impressive number of law enforcement representatives and community leaders stood in support of this bill. I believe this measure was a responsible and prudent step toward protecting our communities from future gun violence.  

I believe these bills laid out real, workable solutions on challenges facing our state. I’m disappointed that both were defeated in committee before Coloradans had their chance to give their full input on the bills.

I was a member of the Women’s March in Denver in 2017 and joined this year’s Women’s Marches in Gunnison and Crested Butte. While marching and talking with members of these communities, I heard many folks applaud the work of Rep. Millie Hamner. However, it is clear there is more work to be done. Please help me pick up the torch and continue the march to the State Capitol for good, honest and responsive representation. I’m working hard at getting to know the people and the issues across the five counties of this District, and I hope to earn your vote this November.

Read Full Story at AspenDailyNews.com

Proposed fee to stabilize Colorado’s individual health-insurance market dies in the Senate

By Ed Sealover (May 06th 2018)

The idea of launching a reinsurance program to save Colorado’s flailing individual health-insurance market was big and it was bold. But in the end, it wasn’t bipartisan enough.

Republicans on the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on Friday killed House Bill 1392 3-2 on a party-line vote. That decision came after its Republican Senate co-sponsor, Don Coram of Montrose, looked at his colleagues on the committee and acknowledged that he didn’t know exactly what the answer was to bring down skyrocketing premiums in his part of the state but that he had to try something like this.

Under a reinsurance program like those that have been implemented in Alaska and Minnesota, the state would place a 2 percent fee on all large-group, small-group and individual plans offered by private insurers and use that to generate a money to insure the insurers who face the highest costs in the individual market. Those insurers could submit to the state claims between $25,000 and $1 million and ask for them to be covered by this new pool of revenue — a cushion that would allow individual-market insurers to bring down premiums statewide by an average of 16 percent but bring them down even more in extremely high-cost areas of the state like the mountain towns and the Western Slope, said co-sponsoring Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood.

Kennedy and co-sponsoring Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, also set the program up to end after five years, so the state could determine whether it had achieved its purpose.

“It’s a 2 percent tax on a broad spectrum of insurance providers with a 35 percent decrease for people in this spiked-up pool in western Colorado,” Rankin told the House during debate on the measure on April 27th. “This is a necessary step if rural Colorado is to survive and not have people leaving there.”

Read Full Story at DenverBusinessJournal.com

Reinsurance program can stabilize health insurance costs

By Tom Jankovsky (April 29th 2018)

Garfield County residents and Coloradoans across the state are struggling with ever-increasing health insurance costs, which have reached exorbitant levels on the individual market, and are getting worse every year.

According to the Colorado Division of Insurance, the issue is being felt regardless of zip code, with three years of annualized premium increases in excess of 20 percent (and even higher in rural and mountain communities). This means the average cumulative premium increase in the individual market was approximately 72 percent over the past three years. This has a staggering effect on our residents.

The failure to find a solution is hurting many Colorado citizens, and particularly small business owners, mom-and-pop operations, nonprofits, and individuals working in the trades, who don’t qualify for group plans. Critical and immediate action is needed to secure stabilization in the individual market.

State lawmakers have a solution before them this session in HB 18-1392, the Individual Health Insurance Market Stabilization Act, which is co-sponsored by Colorado state Reps. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood. This bipartisan bill creates a high-cost reinsurance program that buffers insurance companies against risk for unusually expensive claims, such as transplants and cancer care. It spreads the risks to avoid destabilization of the market, and incentivizes insurers to offer coverage in currently underserved areas.

Read Full Story at GJSentinel.com

Is reinsurance the antidote for high insurance premiums in Aspen, other mountain communities?

By Rick Carroll (April 28th 2018)

Pitkin County can lay claim to a bevy of bragging rights when it comes to quality of life, but not when it comes to the cost of health insurance premiums.

Along with other rural mountain communities, including Eagle, Garfield and Summit counties, customers on the individual market have seen their annualized premiums skyrocket by some 72 percent over the past three years, according to the state’s insurance division.

There might be help on the way, however, and it will boil down to what state lawmakers decide during the current legislative session.

House Bill 1392, the Individual Health Insurance Market Stabilization Act, aims to stabilize health plans on the individual market — those buyers who don’t get insurance through their employer or relatives, and don’t have Medicare or Medicaid. Many of those individuals who have been hurt in the wallet are those who weren’t eligible for federal tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.

In 2015 in Pitkin County, 3,020 residents, or 16.9 percent, were uninsured; 7,583 individuals, or 42.5 percent, had employer-sponsored insurance; and 3,361, or 18.9 percent, had individually purchased insurance, according to the Colorado Health Institute.

Another 1,629 residents, or 9.1 percent, were Medicaid enrollees and 139 individuals, or 0.8 percent, were enrolled in Child Health Plan Plus.

The reinsurance bill is hardly perfect, said Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards. Still, she strongly supports it.

“It really would make a difference to people when the rates for 2019 go out in the fall,” said Richards, who testified about the bill April 19 before the state’s health education committee.

The bill’s goal is to lower premium increases on the individual market by 20 percent in 2019.

Read Full Story at AspenTimes.com

Colorado takes steps to shore up markets and protect consumers

By Bethany Pray (April 26th 2018)

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) eight years ago, Colorado has jumped on opportunities to improve health care access for its residents, expanding Medicaid coverage and creating a state-based health insurance exchange where Coloradans can take advantage of federal subsidies that help pay for the cost of coverage.

With the feds now in the process of undercutting the ACA, Colorado has an opportunity – through House Bill 1392, the Individual Health Insurance Market Stabilization Act – to use reinsurance to stabilize a market that the feds have knocked off-balance, and simultaneously to make premium prices more equitable for rural Coloradans. While Coloradans who qualify for subsidies can purchase more affordable coverage, those with incomes over 400 percent of the federal poverty level pay full price. Fortunately, HB 1392 and the reinsurance system could provide some relief from rising premiums.

Reinsurance works like this: a fund is created that helps cover costs for the most expensive enrollees in individual and small-group plans. Because insurance carriers know they’ll have help covering the highest cost enrollees and will bear less risk, they can set premium prices lower for everyone. Those lower premiums make coverage more attractive to the healthy individuals who might otherwise skip having coverage – a problem worsened since the federal government gutted the “individual mandate” that required us to get covered.  Bringing more healthy individuals into the risk pool helps further reduce the costs of insurance. Reinsurance programs are underway in three states, and the first to implement the plan – Alaska – has had significant success. In Alaska in 2017, projected premium rate increases of 42 percent were instead held to just 7.3 percent.

The special twist in HB 1392 is that reinsurance funds will be dispersed in such a way that premiums can be lowered most dramatically in high-cost areas, especially the Eastern Plains, Western Slope and the mountain corridor. We heard testimony in the House Health, Insurance and Environment committee recently about costs that exceeded 20 percent of one middle-class family’s income, or a whopping $25,000 for an individual’s policy, combining premium payments and deductibles. Families and businesses in rural Colorado can’t thrive unless residents above the income cut-off for subsidies have access to health care — whether that’s to provide prenatal care, treat a broken wrist or get access to necessary medications.

Rep. Chris Kennedy and Colorado’s Division of Insurance, under Acting Commissioner Michael Conway, have engaged closely with stakeholders over the past year. Much of that work involved developing a mechanism to create the reinsurance fund, which would combine new fees on individual, group and stop-loss policies, along with a re-purposed portion of the federal funds Coloradans receive through the premium tax credit program.

This is a solid plan that deserves strong support. At the same time, we need to continue efforts to identify providers, facilities and procedures that contribute to the outsize costs that inflate premiums, and to develop mechanisms to rein in outliers and ensure quality, affordable care. Costs matter. But we simply can’t afford to leave Coloradans in those areas out in the cold. Adopting a reinsurance plan now is the right choice.

Read Full Story at Colorado Center on Law & Policy

Bill aims to lower health care rates

By Charles Ashby (April 28th 2018)

DENVER — One way to lower health care costs in areas of the state that are seeing double-digit increases in premiums is to get insurance companies to pool people together under the same health care plans.

But to get insurance companies to do that hasn’t been an easy task because of the high cost of doing so, lawmakers say.

That’s why Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, and Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, got preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Friday to provide insurance for insurance companies, a practice called reinsurance.

Such a program allows insurance companies that buy reinsurance coverage to make claims for high costs just like patients do.

“When it comes to payment reform ideas and trying to address what I see as an irrational subdivision of our insurance market into these little subgroups,” Kennedy said. “What we really need is the broadest pool possible to share the risk. That’s what insurance is all about. This is the single best thing that we can do to stabilize the health care markets.”

But it drew opposition partly because the measure, HB1392, calls on the Colorado Division of Insurance to assess a 2 percent fee on all premiums statewide to fund the reinsurance program, which would be about $360 million, half of which would be federal money.

“This is once again feeding a monster without any accountability,” said Rep. Susan Beckman, R-Littleton. “Until we get some transparency in the system, move it to more of a free market, we’re going to be taking a group of people to fund other groups.”

Others didn’t like the bill because it attempts to repair errors created by the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Rep. Dan Thurlow, R-Grand Junction, said he just can’t see how the measure would help.

“I would love to say … here’s a magical formula that we’re going to lower your rates,” Thurlow said. “I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe it. We can’t just magically say let’s take two percent from all the other (insurance) plans … and say now we’re going to put that two percent into the other market, and that it’s not going to create higher … rates. I think we’re kidding ourselves.”

The measure somewhat replaces an idea that Rankin and Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Frisco, have supported, and that’s to make the entire state its own geographic rating area when it comes to determining premiums, instead of the current nine.

But that effort died because it would lead to higher insurance rates in the more populated areas of the state, such as the Front Range.

The bill requires a final House vote before heading to the Senate, where Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, and Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, will try to get it to the governor’s desk.

Read Full Story at GJSentinel.com

Legislature considers raising fees on employer health plans to stabilize individual market

By Ed Sealover (April 20th, 2018)

Colorado’s individual health-insurance market is failing, with average premiums rising 20 percent in 2017 and another 27 percent this year.

As such, a bill moving through the Colorado Legislature asks this question: Is it fair to ask some 2 million people in this state to pay between 2 and 8 percent more for their insurance premiums next year in order to stabilize the individual market for roughly 140,000 people who face the prospect of even more skyrocketing costs without some kind of help?

The proposal, from Democratic Rep. Chris Kennedy of Lakewood and Republican Rep. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, would establish a reinsurance program that, in many ways, offers insurance to health insurers who have taken the sickest and most expensive patients into individual plans since the Affordable Care Act required all Americans to buy policies in 2014 and banned insurers from rejecting customers because of pre-existing conditions.

Reinsurance allows insurers to turn over to the state their highest claims once they exceed a certain cost, such as $25,000, and to have the state cover those bills until the claims reach $1 million. Doing so would reduce insurers’ risks and allow companies to bring down the overall costs of premiums between 10 and 25 percent as compared to what they otherwise would charge in 2019, Kennedy and interim Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway said.

Read Full Story at DenverBusinessJournal.com

New law requires more transparency at freestanding ERs

By Jennifer Meckles (April 25th, 2018)

It’s a misunderstanding that can costs patients thousands of dollars.

Two bills signed into law on Wednesday are designed to increase transparency around freestanding emergency rooms in Colorado.

For several years, 9NEWS has reported on complaints and confusion from patients who visit freestanding ERs. Many did not realize the difference between those facilities and the cheaper urgent care centers, or they did not realize the costs involved until receiving unexpectedly high bills.

“As a result of this becoming law, folks will get greater transparency, greater disclosure,” explained Senator John Kefalas (D-Fort Collins), one of the bill’s sponsors. “So folks, when they go in these facilities, they’ll be able to make informed decisions.”

The bill requires freestanding ERs to post a sign informing patients when they arrive that the facility is an emergency room that treats emergency medical conditions. The sign must explain whether or not the facility includes an urgent care. If not, the sign must explain the facility is not an urgent care or primary care facility.

Once the patient has completed his or her initial screening, they get more information under this new law.

If the patient is not experiencing an emergency medical condition, or the patient has been provided treatment to stabilize an emergency medical condition, the facility must provide information explaining what insurance it accepts.

The freestanding emergency room also has to specify the prices of the 25 most common health care services it provides, and let patients know that cost listed for each service is the maximum charge the patient would be billed.

“It’s great to have a freestanding emergency facility much closer to you than a hospital when you really, really need one,” said State Senator Jim Smallwood (R-Parker), another bill sponsor. “While at the same time making sure that they know if they have a mildly sprained ankle or a splinter… this probably isn’t appropriate care.”

The push for transparency was supported by lawmakers from both parties.

Read Full Story at 9News.com

Legislature considers raising fees on employer health plans to stabilize individual market

By Ed Sealover (April 20th, 2018)

Colorado’s individual health-insurance market is failing, with average premiums rising 20 percent in 2017 and another 27 percent this year.

As such, a bill moving through the Colorado Legislature asks this question: Is it fair to ask some 2 million people in this state to pay between 2 and 8 percent more for their insurance premiums next year in order to stabilize the individual market for roughly 140,000 people who face the prospect of even more skyrocketing costs without some kind of help?

The proposal, from Democratic Rep. Chris Kennedy of Lakewood and Republican Rep. Bob Rankin of Carbondale, would establish a reinsurance program that, in many ways, offers insurance to health insurers who have taken the sickest and most expensive patients into individual plans since the Affordable Care Act required all Americans to buy policies in 2014 and banned insurers from rejecting customers because of pre-existing conditions.

Reinsurance allows insurers to turn over to the state their highest claims once they exceed a certain cost, such as $25,000, and to have the state cover those bills until the claims reach $1 million. Doing so would reduce insurers’ risks and allow companies to bring down the overall costs of premiums between 10 and 25 percent as compared to what they otherwise would charge in 2019, Kennedy and interim Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway said.

Read Full Story at DenverBusinessJournal.com

Also check out:
Bill would bank drone flights over wildfires

By Charles Ashby (April 19th, 2018)

DENVER — Drone users who fly their aerial craft over fires or emergency operations could find themselves facing misdemeanor charges under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado House on Wednesday.

Reps. Polly Lawrence, R-Parker, and Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, said their measure, HB1314, is needed because when drone users fly those unmanned aerial vehicles over such events, they are only delaying important work in dealing with them.

Slurry aircraft have had to be grounded numerous times in recent years because drones have been getting in their way, the two lawmakers said.

“We want to make sure that nothing obstructs those air flight missions that are dropping slurry to help put those fires out,” Lawrence said. “This is a significant step to make sure that drone use by recreational users or professional users does not interfere with firefighting or emergency rescue operations.”

Fire departments, law enforcement and rescue workers increasingly have been using drone technology to help them in their efforts, but those flights are controlled and known by the personnel involved so as not to interfere with other operations.

An increasing number of people not involved in firefighting, law enforcement or rescue efforts, however, also have been flying them into such areas, causing problems. The U.S. Forest Service, for example, has started a new campaign called “If You Fly, We Can’t” to combat the dozens of incidents that agency deals with each fire season while fighting wildfires nationwide.

Under the bill, which still needs a final House vote before going to the Senate, anyone who obstructs a firefighter or emergency service worker with a drone could be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Read Full Story at GJSentinel.com

Bill named for Arvada girl signed into law

Bill named for Arvada girl signed into law

Staff Report (April 17th, 2018)

Physicians often sign contract agreements to not actively tries to take patients with them, if they leave a group practice. Those that do, may be legally forced to pay monetary damages.

But a bill signed into law April 2 makes an exception in the case of patients with a rare disorder.

SB18-082 known as “Gracie’s Bill” is sponsored by Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, and Rep. Chris Kennedy,D-Lakewood and was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The law was inspired by Arvada resident Grace Hoyt, 7 with a rare disease, posterior column ataxia with retinitis pigmentosa. This means that she has poor balance, she is legally blind, and she does not feel pain.

“Not feeling pain has been the hardest part of her condition to manage,’ said Susan Hoyt, Grace’s mother, in testimony supporting the bill. “Gracie has had many, many infections in her short life. She has been hospitalized about 15 times, always for some type of infection. Some of these infections were very serious, even requiring amputations of some of her fingertips.”

Hoyt continued to explain that her family has relied on infectious disease doctors to manage her daughter’s infections and find medications to prescribe that she is not resistant to.

“We have had mixed luck with infectious disease, but in 2013 we found Dr. Wendi Drummond at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.” Hoyt said. “Dr. Drummond was a Godsend. She understood the complexity of Gracie’s care. She listened to my concerns and answered my questions honestly, never getting offended if I questioned a particular treatment.”

But in January 2015, Drummond left Rocky Mountain and the terms of her non-compete agreement prevented her from talking to the Hoyts or having any influence on Gracie’s care.

“We still have not found an infectious disease specialist who understands Gracie like Dr. Drummond did,” Hoyt said. “Her new infectious disease doctors try to treat her like a 7-year-old with a normal immune system, not comprehending the seriousness of her condition. If Dr. Drummond could have continued to help with her care, I believe the doctors would have treated Gracie more quickly and she would not have spent as much time in the hospital.”

Hoyt encouraged members of congress to consider her daughter and other children and adults with rare diseases when making their votes.

“The idea that we would withhold critical healthcare from a child to protect a business made no sense to me,” Zenzinger said. “How do you justify that to the sick child? You can’t. I’m proud that my colleagues in the legislature saw the same logic and acted decisively to fix the problem.”

Read Full Story at ArvadaPress.com

Public Notices in Newspapers

Sen. John Cooke’s bill narrowing county disclosure requirements set for Colorado House floor hearing

By Tyler Silvy (April 07, 2018)

Two records-related bills sponsored by Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, could come to the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives this week.

Cooke’s own bill, Senate Bill 156, co-sponsored by Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood, would allow counties to publish salary reports once per year instead of twice per year, and in 2020, would remove the requirement that those reports be published in a newspaper.

A previous version of Cooke’s bill also cut down the number of times counties must publish expense reports to once annually from once per month.

The current iteration still allows counties, beginning Jan. 1, 2020, to publish the expense report, salary report and financial statement on a county website with a link to the report published in at least one legal newspaper, according to the bill summary.

The amended bill passed the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee 6-2 on Wednesday, and it’s scheduled to be heard on the House floor Monday.

Read Full Story at GreeleyTribune.com

Colorado Legislature Considers ‘Public Notices’ in Newspapers

By Jeffrey A. Roberts (April 05, 2018)

State lawmakers took another step Wednesday toward phasing out the required publication of county public notices in Colorado newspapers.

The House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 18-156 on a 6-2 vote. Some committee members voted in favor of the measure while acknowledging that some newspapers may be hit hard by the loss of revenue.

“The last thing I want to do is contribute to what we’ve seen as a struggle for the newspaper industry to keep doing what they do, which is providing vital information to folks across the state,” said Rep. Chris Kennedy, the Lakewood Democrat who is sponsoring the bill in the House. “But I have to weigh that and balance it with how we are asking our counties to publish things that the population really is not looking in their newspaper for these days.”

The bill would change a century-old law that requires each county to publish a monthly expense report and a twice-a-year employee salary report in a local newspaper.

Read Full Story at PagosaDailyPost.com