Increasing Transparency in our Health Care Spending

Increasing Transparency in our Health Care Spending

There’s a reason health care policy is a hot topic right now, and it’s not that “Obamacare is exploding.”

Health care costs have been growing faster than inflation for as long as I can remember. When I was working at my engineering firm in the mid-2000s, I remember the broker coming by every year to tell us how much our premiums would be going up. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), premiums continued to rise, although not as quickly as before. Millions more people had coverage, which insurance companies could no longer deny to people with preexisting conditions.

But the fact remains that premiums are rising too quickly, and every voter I met last year knows it. That’s a big part of why I requested to serve on the Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee this year.

I started the legislative session hoping to identify some concrete steps we could take to address the growing cost of health care, but as I started to dig, I discovered how little we actually know about how our health care dollars are being spent. This is especially true with hospital care, which makes up 37 percent of our health care spending in Colorado.

We’re looking at several pieces of legislation this year to address concerns with pharmaceutical costs, insurance company practices, and the new free-standing emergency departments springing up all over the metro area. But my highest priority this session is getting to the bottom of the cost increases for hospital care.

My bill, House Bill 1236, will require hospitals to annually submit their cost reports and audited financial statements to the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF, often pronounced “hick-puff”). HCPF will then produce an annual report breaking down spending on inpatient and outpatient care, personnel and administrative costs, capital construction and equipment expenditures, and uncompensated care (including charity care and bad debt) so that policymakers and citizens have the information they need to understand the cost drivers in our hospital system.

It’s also not just about premiums. State spending on Medicaid has been growing, too. Part of this growth comes from increased enrollment and utilization, but much of it comes from the same inflationary pressures impacting our premiums.

Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne testified in support of my bill in committee, saying, “This bill is important. It provides the basic financial information in the interest of providing appropriate oversight for such a large portion of taxpayer dollars. Hospitals represent 32 percent of all state Medicaid expenditures – the single largest portion of the program with the single largest budget in the state. These are public dollars and the public should know where and how they are used.”

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and will soon go to the Senate where it also has bipartisan sponsorship. Watch my speech on the House floor here.

Increasing transparency is only a first step, but I’m hopeful we can identify some of the major cost drivers, partner with hospitals on future legislation, and pass the savings along to the people of Colorado.

Press Conference on Campaign Finance Reform Package

Today I was joined by Rep. Mike Weissman, Rep. Jeff Bridges, and Speaker Crisanta Duran to discuss four bills that will increase transparency and accountability in our elections. Press release after the video.

Campaign Finance Reform Press Conference

Campaign Finance Reform Press Conference this afternoon! Honored to work with Speaker Duran and Reps Weissman and Bridges to make some much-needed changes to the way our campaigns are funded.

Posted by Representative Chris Kennedy on Wednesday, March 15, 2017

 

2017 House Democratic Campaign Finance Reform Legislation

Voters of all political persuasions are tired of the large and growing influence of money in politics, especially when it’s difficult or impossible to tell who is spending that money.

Today House Democratic members are announcing four bills to close loopholes and increase transparency in Colorado campaign finance law.

Closing the Gap in Campaign Finance Reporting by Rep. Jeff Bridges, D- Greenwood Village

Problem:  Under current law, “electioneering communications” disclosure captures only mass communications sent 30 days prior to a primary election or 60 days prior to a general election.  However, the reality of modern campaigns is that political spending continues all summer. Colorado Ethics Watch estimates that, in 2016, more than $1.9 million fell through the “gap” between the primary election and 60 days before the general.

Solution:  Rep. Bridge’s bill will bring additional transparency to Colorado elections by closing that gap. It requires that all spending meant to directly influence voters between the date of the primary election and 60 days prior to the general election be subject to enhanced disclosure. Voters will be able to look up who is spending money to influence their vote throughout the campaign.

Taking Responsibility for Campaign Ads by Rep. Bridges

Problem: Under current law, mass “electioneering communications” are not required to state who is paying for them, leaving voters unable to assess the credibility of these communications, or know who is funding the effort.

Solution: Update Colorado law to require a short and simple disclosure of the “electioneering communication” spender’s identity.  This will bring additional transparency to Colorado elections by requiring “paid for by” disclaimers on all electioneering materials.

Eliminating Shadow Committees by Rep. Mike Weissman, D-Aurora

Problem: A recent Colorado Court of Appeals case left open the possibility that a candidate could create an independent expenditure committee to receive unlimited donations.

Solution:  Update Colorado law to make clear that candidate-controlled committees are subject to the same contribution limits set forth in the Colorado Constitution and approved by voters by a 2 to 1 margin. This would confirm the common sense understanding that an “independent expenditure committee” could never truly be independent from the candidate running it.

Contribution Limits for County Candidates by Rep. Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood

Problem:  Our election system should provide a level playing field. Every candidate should have a shot – not just those with wealthy friends – but in county races, we often see contributions of $5,000 and $10,000, and sometimes up to $40,000 from wealthy individuals. Colorado has contribution limits for all state candidates, but there are no limits for county candidates.

Solution:  This bill levels the playing field by limiting individual contributions to county candidates to $2,500 per cycle with proportional limits for partnerships, political committees, small donor committees, and political parties. The bill maintains the prohibition on corporate contributions.

 

See coverage in the Denver Post here.

See coverage in the Grand Junction Sentinel here.

See covered on ColoradoPolitics.com here.

First Bill Signed Into Law

First Bill Signed Into Law

Governor Hickenlooper signed my first bill, House Bill 2017, into law today and I got my first bill signing pen!

The bill clarifies the duties of county surveyors, seeks to make it easier for small counties to appoint in the event of a vacancy, and modernizes some pretty outdated provisions. It was great to have several surveyors join us for the signing, along with some close friends and one of my youngest new constituents!

End of February Update

In other news, we’ve had another busy couple weeks at the capitol. The days and weeks go by so fast here that I can barely remember everything that has happened.

My Bills
My first bill has completed its journey through the legislative process. HB 1017 clarifies the responsibilities of county surveyors and the vacancy appointment process. It passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, and after the House concurred with one minor Senate amendment, the bill is on its way to Governor Hickenlooper’s desk to be signed into law!

Last Wednesday, I convened a stakeholder group to discuss my idea of streamlining inspections of affordable housing projects. I had previously introduced a bill, HB 1170, to address this issue, but I also knew this was a complicated enough issue that my bill might not necessarily be the right solution; legislation is not always the answer. In this case, we might be able to make more progress simply by keeping these stakeholders sitting at the same table and working things out. I may or may not move forward with my bill at this point, but I feel good about the conversation we’ve started.

I also want to plug a bill I’ll be introducing soon on hospital transparency. Did you know that hospital care accounts for 37% of the total cost of our health care, and yet we don’t have great data about how this money is being spent within the hospital system? My bill – which already has significant bipartisan support – will require hospitals to report more data to the state so we can compile detailed hospital expenditure reports and identify more of the drivers of our increasing health care premiums.

What else?
So much. Just yesterday, my Finance Committee passed a bill extending the childcare tax credit and another to refer a measure to voters to re-calibrate the TABOR growth cap. The Education Committee passed a bill to address a long-standing concern with 9th grade testing. Negotiations continue on a referred measure to raise revenue for transportation. We’ve also been busy defeating bad bills, like this one introduced for solely political purposes.

I could go on, but I think I’ll leave it there. If you want to talk more, email me or call my office at 303-866-2951 or come to my meet-and-greet or office hours!

An Idea for Affordable Housing

One bill I’m particularly excited about will be introduced in the next day or so. In a conversation with the folks at Metro West Housing Solutions (Lakewood’s housing authority) last summer, I learned about an issue with duplicative inspections. Affordable housing projects often require public funding from multiple sources including state housing development grants (HDG), state and federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC), and federal HOME funds. Each of these public funding sources comes with tenant income-verification inspections immediately after occupancy and/or periodically over many years. So why can’t we streamline these inspections and cut some duplicates? My bill starts up a process of rulemaking to bring all parties to the table and get to work on streamlining these inspections.

My bill hardly solves our affordable housing problem – we need millions of dollars to do that – but it attempts to stretch existing resources just a little bit further by reducing duplication. Stay tuned for updates on more of my bills

Coming up in Health Committee: Abortion Bans

Lest you think that this issue is resolved, I can assure you we still need to fight every year to protect a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health.

This Thursday, the House Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee will be hearing three Republican-sponsored bills going after abortion rights. One bill purports to protect women’s health, but in fact it is a way for the Attorney General to build a database and conduct surprise inspections on abortion clinics. A second bill requires abortion providers to “inform” women about abortion pill reversal, based on highly questionable and unproven science. A third bill defines life at the moment of conception, essentially outlawing all abortions – a state law clearly deemed unconstitutional under Roe v Wade and subsequent decisions. Read the three bills here.

That’s going to be a really long night. I’m working incredibly hard on these and many other issues, but I gotta tell you – I dig this job. It’s such an honor to represent you all, and it feels good to be doing this work every day. Thanks for hiring me.

Ready Set Go

Ready Set Go

You know, it’s funny. People keep asking me if I’m ready for things to get crazy when the 2017 Legislative Session begins on Wednesday, but the truth is things have been crazy since the day after Election Day. And I love it.

Every day, I get to wake up and work on solving public policy problems. Whether I’m digging into research based on my own ideas and concerns or meeting with constituents and advocates to learn about theirs, it is truly a privilege to be in this position.

Colorado is facing some pretty significant challenges right now. While the economy is growing, there are still too many folks struggling to keep up with the cost of living. Among our top priorities will be working to address the costs of housing, health care, child care, and more.

At the same time, Colorado is in a very unique situation because of Constitutional constraints on our budget. As many of you know, Colorado is the only state in the U.S. in which the legislature doesn’t have the authority to raise taxes. Furthermore, our budget is restricted by a growth cap that doesn’t keep pace with the needs of our growing state. So, even as we grow our economy, we’re unable to adequately fund our public schools, transportation infrastructure, and other priorities. Furthermore, the rapid growth of home values has put the Gallagher amendment into effect for the first time since 2003. Essentially, this means we’re forced to reduce residential property taxes in a way that will cut education funding by $178M at a time when the state is already far short of it’s obligation to K-12.

While we will certainly be searching for legislative solutions to many of these problems, some of them can only be addressed by amending the Constitution, which is now much more difficult because of the passage of Amendment 71. In the short term, that means Colorado will be making budget cuts.

It is indeed frustrating that despite our growing economy we’re unable to increase our investment in many critical priorities, but it is also an honor to be in a position to fix the things we can and fight for long-term change. That’s exactly what I’ll be doing every day as your State Representative.

Stay tuned for more updates soon on the bills I’m sponsoring and the work we’re doing in committee.

Lakewood’s House representatives stay Democrat (Lakewood Sentinel)

by Clarke Reader (Dec. 28, 2016)

Both of Lakewood’s House representative seats remained Democrat after the November election, with Chris Kennedy defeating Republican Chris Hadsall for the House District 23 seat with 23,872 votes to Hadsall’s 18,850. Current seat holder Max Tyler was term-limited.

Incumbent Brittany Pettersen held off Republican Nancy Pallozzi in the race for House District 28 with 22,431 votes to Pallozzi’s 14,522.

Read the full story at LakewoodSentinel.com.