A healthier outlook for Colorado

To the editor,

The multi-faceted issue of health care in Colorado is questioned frequently as I tour District 59, repeated often in the calls and letters I receive. I am the first to admit it is not my specialty, but here are some bipartisan bills wending their way through the Legislature now:

• HB19-001 requires hospitals to report their annual spending under a transparency law, including payrolls, inpatient, outpatient and emergency visits and capital expenditures. The results will show why those insured by private carriers are paying more when public funds to help cover uncompensated hospital care have grown. The Governor has signed this bill.

• HB19-1168 will help lower insurance premiums on the Western Slope; which pays some of the highest premiums in the nation. It puts people who use their insurance frequently into a separate category so their high costs do not raise the average of lower-need patients. This bill has passed through the House and is now in the Senate.

• SB19-004 authorizes health care cooperatives to incorporate consumer protections and collective rate negotiations. Consolidating consumer purchasing power adds competition, which will reduce costs. It is an innovative way to provide health insurance and is already working in several parts of the country. School districts, local government entities and other groups could join the cooperative. SB19-004 has passed through the Senate, and is now starting in the House.

• HB19-1176 creates a task force to analyze health care financing in the state. The task force will assess three models and evaluate each approach: the current health care system; a publicly and privately funded multi-payer universal health care system; and a publicly financed, privately delivered universal health care system. Legislators can make decisions about what will work best. The bill is almost through the House, then will head to the Senate.

• HB19-1004 addresses the lack of insurance competition in Colorado, which makes health care unaffordable for many. The bill asks for a state option that builds on existing state infrastructure. Costs could be more closely contained, and funding opportunities could be maximized. The bill has passed through the House, and is now in the Senate.

• SB19-079 lets practitioners to only prescribe opioid medication electronically, with a few specific exceptions. With opioid abuse rampant, especially in rural Colorado, this prevents prescriptions from getting into the wrong hands. The Governor has signed the bill.

• HB19-1287 increases access to treatment for opioid & other drug addiction problems by establishing a web-based tracking system. It will provide information on treatment at behavioral health facilities, medical detox centers & programs for medication-assisted treatments. This will help patients, caregivers and medical professionals find immediate help. The bill also increases the capacity for treatment in rural and underserved areas. This bill is still in the House.

• HB19-1216 will reduce the price of insulin in Colorado. The cost of insulin rose by 45 percent between 2014- 17, and by more than 700 percent over the last 20 years. The actual insulin has not changed significantly since 1996. People are rationing or not taking their dosages, putting their lives in danger. The Attorney General will be instructed to investigate. The bill should be out of the House soon, then move to the Senate.

• HB19-1131 requires drug manufacturers to provide, in writing, the wholesale cost of a prescription drug to a prescriber, as well as give the names and wholesale costs of at least three generic drugs, if they exist. This will help prescribers see the transparency of prescription costs, which can be shared with the consumer. This has passed the House and Senate.

• HB19-1241 provides scholarships to students who commit to practicing medicine in rural areas. This bill is in the House Appropriations Committee.

• The Joint Budget Committee set aside a $13.9 million

increase for services for people with intellectual developmental disabilities. It also gave $46.2 million for a 1 percent rate increase for community providers; $1 million to expand the Colorado Family Planning Program; $5 million for additional inpatient psychiatric treatment at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo; and $15.6 million for staff retention at the Veterans Community Living Center and Youth Services Facility.

Several mental health bills are also moving through the House and Senate, including funding for youth suicide prevention and behavioral & mental health services in schools.

For more information on the bills’ status, visit http://leg.colorado.gov.

– Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango