health care costs

A new ad campaign designed to counter "misinformation" from opponents of the Colorado Option Health Benefit bill is set to launch on Friday.

But House Bill 1232, which was scheduled for its first committee hearing on Friday, has now been pushed back to next week to allow parties more time to negotiate.

The Colorado Option Health Benefit Plan has two phases, according to HB 1232: in the first phase, the health care market, namely health insurance providers, drug companies and hospitals, are expected to find a way to reduce health insurance premiums in the individual and small group markets by 10% per year for two years, beginning in 2023.

"We are coming forward with a new, innovative and collaborate two-phased approach" based on pledges from the industry to lower premium costs on their own, said sponsor Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, in a March 18 news conference. "This year's proposal will take them at their word," to provide cheaper care without compromising quality. 

Under the introduced version, should the industry not be able to reduce premiums by 20% by the end of 2024, the state would launch in 2025 a state-run nonprofit plan, complete with price controls to ensure lower premium costs. That plan would be developed by the commissioner of insurance. 

Part of the bill's intent is to address the affordability of health insurance in rural areas and for historically underrepresented groups, including people of color and undocumented Coloradans.

The bill is the subject of back-and-forth campaigns by those who back the bill, including Healthier Colorado, and opponents, led by the industry group Colorado's Health Care Future, which is backing up its opposition with a million-dollar ad campaign. 

The ad campaign launching Friday in support of HB 1232 includes two network television ads that feature Colorado doctors and a small business owner decrying the high cost of the current health care system and condemning the burden it places on patients and small businesses, according to a statement from Healthier Colorado.

“The health care industry has been using Coloradans’ own health insurance premiums against them to fund misleading ads,” said Healthier Colorado executive director Jake Williams. “Now it’s time to hear from people who are actually on the side of working Coloradans and their interest in quality, affordable healthcare.”

Healthier Colorado would not disclose how much it is spending on the ad campaign.

Not to be left out, Colorado's Health Care Future, a project of the industry-led Partnership for America's Health Care Future, reiterated a series of studies Thursday that said the bill will "increase costs for Coloradans, while threatening patients’ access to quality health care, services, and coverage choices."

That includes a study commissioned by the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, conducted by FTI Consulting, which claimed the proposal could financially impact 78% of all Colorado hospitals, with a resulting $112 million in losses. The public option would put 23 rural hospitals at risk of closure, the FTI study said.

The Thursday statement also warned that hospitals would either have to cut services and access to care, or pass along the costs of the Colorado Option to private plans in the individual and employer-provided insurance markets, based on a Common Sense Institute analysis from March, 2020.

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