Members of the Colorado General Assembly are starting to prepare their legislation for the upcoming 2022 General Session starting Jan. 12.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spoke with State of Reform on their priorities and pre-filed health policy legislation that they will be working on throughout the next session.
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Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet (D-Aurora), Rep. Susan Lontine (D-Fort Logan), Sen. Cleave Simpson (R-Alamosa), and Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer (R-Mead) all noted the importance of the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force on next session legislation.
Lontine and Simpson say there are structural issues surrounding behavioral health treatment. Simpson says the system does not have enough infrastructure to meet the behavioral health demands in the state. Because of this, Lontine says the system was not ready for behavioral health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. She says:
“We were seeing the ragged edges. The systems that we have just really weren’t prepared for COVID and the effects.”
Michaelson Jenet says she plans to introduce legislation to create a public school for children with physical and/or behavioral health needs that can also accommodate residential services, like inpatient psychiatric beds. These schools, under Michaelson Jenet’s plan, would be covered by either private insurance from parents or Medicaid. She says there is interest in this program, but details need to be worked on.
“I think there is a lot of general interest, but it’s all going to come down to the details. Everybody knows we need this. If I can bring everybody together to hammer that out, we’ll get it done.”
HB 1184 would eliminate the legal requirement for physician assistants (PAs) to be supervised by a physician. Lontine says this would open up jobs for PAs in places where supervisors may be limited‒especially in rural areas. She says opening up these positions will bring more PAs with expertise to Colorado and improve workforce provider shortages.
HB 1135 would protect consumers who participate in health care cost-sharing arrangements through transparency requirements from brokers and required financial reporting to the commissioner of the Division of Insurance (DOI).
“We just want to make sure that people understand what they are buying, and that this is transparent.”
Simpson has pre-filed bills on the creation of a rare disease advisory council and the creation of a peer assistance program for dental hygienists.
He says members of the rare disease community do not feel adequately represented in stakeholder meetings on important legislative priorities like the Prescription Drug Affordability Review Board and Colorado Option meetings. Therefore, Simpson said their voices are not being prioritized in policy making decisions.
For dental hygienists, Simpson wants to mirror the Dental Peer Health Assistance Program. The program created an established fund‒that all dentists contribute to upon their licensure‒for colleagues suffering from physical, mental, or behavioral health problems. His pre-filed bills copies the language from the dental program to support hygienists.
“I have a growing passion for behavioral health issues in this state, and this appeared like an opportunity to offer some preventative measures for folks, particularly in this instance for dental hygienists. Everywhere I go, I am trying to learn and understand this huge challenge around behavioral health issues, and this one seems to make sense to me.”
Kirkmeyer has one pre-filed bill aiming to update legislation around prior authorization for providers. HB 1211 says “a carrier or organization may offer providers with a history of adherence to the carrier’s or organization’s prior authorization requirements at least one alternative to prior authorization.” This includes exemptions to prior authorization for providers with an 80% approval rating from insurers.
Kirkmeyer wants to change the “may” to a “shall” in order to guarantee that insurers offer adherent providers alternatives to improve access to care.
“A lot of our insurers, too, care about increasing timely access to care and increasing continuity of care for the patients. Everyone wants affordable health care, but this is really about how we can ensure access to care in a timely manner.”