Debate over public option rages as pair of reports raise concerns in Colorado

February 3, 2020, 11:53 am

Colorado lawmakers, health insurance and health care officials backing a public option health insurance plan are responding to multiple reports questioning the full economic impacts and potentially harmful effects for the state’s rural hospitals.

Draft legislation to create a public option is expected in the Colorado General Assembly by the middle of the month.

Kerry Donovan

 Last week, the REMI Partnership, made up of various business groups, released a report entitled “Understanding the Full Impacts of a Public Option for Colorado: Key Questions for Guiding the Discussion.”

The report focuses on some of the same questions about the potential impacts to hospitals, insurance carriers, employers and patients that were raised by lawmakers during a Dec. 24 Joint Budget Committee briefing.

The state agencies charged with implementing the public option, which is meant to create competition in the numerous Colorado counties with only one insurance provider on the state marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, issued to a formal response to the questions.

Another report by FTI Consulting is also raising concerns about the public option. The Colorado Farm Bureau tweeted out that report over the weekend:

“If Colorado’s proposed government-run health care option passes, it could reduce revenue at 83% of Colorado’s hospitals, according to a study by @FTIConsulting. That could threaten the quality of access of Coloradans’ care.”

That prompted this tweet from state Sen Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat and rancher who sponsored the public option bill during last year’s legislative session and is working on the new bill:

“This report has major flaws. Maybe the DC firm didn’t know that rural hospitals will be reimbursed differently than the mega-hospitals in urban areas. I’m not sure what government-run plan they are talking about but it isn’t the public option I’m drafting.”

State Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat working to ease runaway health insurance and health care costs on the state’s Western Slope, has urged stakeholders to withhold judgment until the final bill is released and to come together to craft a better bill.

Roberts echoed Donovan’s sentiment that rural hospitals will be treated differently than urban ones, which he said have been pulling in enormous profits in recent years while insurance and health care costs continue to climb for working class Coloradans.

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