Opinion: Colorado health care consumers celebrate legislative victories

By Debra Judy

The Colorado Consumer Health Initiative is celebrating the end of the Colorado legislature because the takeaway is Colorado health care consumers win big this session!

For all of us, getting the care we need, when we need it isnt too much to ask. So we were delighted that Colorados legislators and Gov. John Hickenlooper really took this idea to heart this year as they helped move toward barrier-free access to quality and affordable health care for all Coloradans.

Sponsored by Rep. Beth McCann and Sen. Irene Aguilar, the bill to modernize stop-loss health insurance is an important step toward stabilizing and protecting the small group insurance market. This bill raises the attachment point for businesses purchasing stop-loss insurance and will ensure that small businesses are not inappropriately self-insuring, thereby protecting the small group market from employers who jump into the market only when they have unhealthy employees. In addition, the Division of Insurance will collect data about stop-loss policies in Colorado so that we can better understand the impacts on the market.

One of the biggest health care issues the Colorado General Assembly faced this year was the creation of the New Medicaid program. On election night, Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino said he hoped Colorado would honor Obamacares provision to expand Medicaid eligibility to individuals making about $15,000 a year or $30,000 a year for a family of four. After Gov. Hickenlooper announced his support for the expansion in January, the bill passed at the end of April. Adult dental care was also added to Colorados Medicaid program. Thanks to these bills, thousands of Coloradans will have better access to the health care they need.

Colorado took another huge step forward in implementing Obamacare with the passage ofthe Health Insurance Alignment Federal Law. While Colorado is one of the leader states in implementing health care reform, many of Obamacares consumer protections were not in Colorado law. With the passage of this bill, in 2014, Colorado will ban discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and allow young adults to stay on their parents plans up to age 26, among many other popular benefits.

Moreover, Colorado is well on its way to establishing its new health care marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado. The General Assembly passed a funding bill to ensure Connect for Health Colorado is financially sustainable in 2015 and beyond. Open enrollment begins Oct. 1, when thousands of Coloradans will be able to easily compare health plans and use tax credits to help afford their insurance premiums. Now its time to get Coloradans enrolled in Connect for Health Colorado!

These great accomplishments are just a few of the health care related bills that passed this year, thanks to our legislative allies and the thousands of health care advocates across the state. Colorado is moving full steam ahead in implementing Obamacare to help thousands Coloradans gain health care coverage. This session has shown that our voices matter when it comes to decisions about health care cheers to a great 2013 session.

Debra Judy is the policy director at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.

Opinions communicated in Solutions represent the view of individual authors, and may not reflect the position of the University of Colorado Denver or the University of Colorado system.