Democrats introduce bills to lower health care costs in Colorado
The Colorado Capitol on May 9, 2022. (Pema Baldwin for Colorado Newsline)
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and a group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a slate of new bills Thursday they say are meant to reduce health care costs in the state.
The bills would reduce premiums for Colorado Option plans, lower prescription drug costs and work to increase transparency for hospital profits.
“Saving people money on healthcare has been a top priority for me since Day One, and it’s a big challenge,” Polis, a Democrat, said. “We want to pound away on it every year, to find every cost driver and address it to make sure Coloradans stop having to overpay for prescription drugs, hospital care and the health care that they need.”
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House Bill 23-1224 would work to improve the Colorado Option, the state-regulated plan offered by private insurers that passed last year. The bill would lower premiums by making it easier for consumers to shop for plans, requiring the development of a method for displaying the standardized plans.
“The Colorado Option is a marquee piece of legislation and a marquee law in our healthcare platform and I’m incredibly pleased with the progress we’ve made on it,” bill sponsor Sen. Dylan Roberts of Avon said. The bill is also backed by Democratic Reps. Iman Jodeh of Aurora and Kyle Brown of Louisville.
The bill also empowers the state’s insurance commissioner to hold carriers accountable for the cost reduction requirements within Colorado Option standardized plans.
Another bill, House Bill 23-1225, addresses the state’s prescription drug affordability board. It would allow the board to review any number of expensive prescription drugs instead of only a dozen as outlined in the legislation that created the board.
The board, which has not yet reviewed the costs of any drugs, has the authority to set an upper payment limit if it determines that a certain drug is unaffordable for Coloradans.
“There are thousands of medications on the market. Limiting it to 12 makes no sense,” bill sponsor state Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis of Longmont said. The bill is also sponsored by Reps. Chris deGruy Kennedy of Lakewood and Ruby Dickson of Greenwood Village.
A third bill, House Bill 23-1227, would give more oversight power to the state’s Division of Insurance over pharmacy benefit managers. It would require PBMs to register with the state and require health insurers to pay a fee when filing a list with the insurance commissioner of the PBMs they use.
The bill specifies that the division has the power to enforce certain requirements over PBMs. PBMs are prohibited from, among other things, requiring patients to get medications through the mail, modifying a drug formulary during the plan year and not allowing pharmacists to tell patients about more affordable drug options. It is sponsored by Jodeh, Rep. David Ortiz of Centennial and Republican Sen. Perry Will of New Castle.
“In some cases, PBMs are coming between consumers, health insurance plans, pharmacies and manufacturers while making very, very large profits. PBMs can be a part of the plan to save Coloradans money on prescription drugs, but they have to follow the rules,” Jodeh, one of the bill sponsors, said.
Lawmakers highlighted other pieces of health care cost saving legislation:
- HB23-1226 would enhance current hospital financial transparency reporting in an effort to highlight what is driving up hospital costs in the state. It is sponsored by Republican Rep. Matt Soper of Delta, deGruy Kennedy, Roberts and Will.
- A yet to be introduced bill from Democratic Rep. Judy Amabile would require a minimum level of community investment by nonprofit hospitals.
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