5 Things Colorado: Q&A with Rep. Roberts, Bill highlights, Health care budget

You may have noticed a new byline showing up at State of Reform. We’re excited to have had Emily Viles join our team to cover Colorado health policy. Prior to State of Reform, she worked in the Colorado Legislature on policy, and just happens to be completing her master’s degree in health policy this month! She’s smart, thoughtful, and a dynamo. If you have a tip for her on Colorado health care, you can always drop her a note directly here.



With help from Sara Gentzler
and Emily Viles

1. Post-session health care bills update

In the 2019 session, over a third of the bills legislators introduced were directly related to health care. Read a rundown of the major health care legislation that made it across the finish line, and some that were heavily debated before stopping short of full passage.

Big bills that passed the full Legislature include: legislation granting Colorado permission to seek a federal waiver for a reinsurance programsurprise billing protections, a billestablishing additional consumer protections regarding health care cooperatives, and a billrequiring a report on the design, costs, benefits, and implementation of a state public option for health insurance.


2. Q&A: Rep. Dylan Roberts

Another perspective on the Legislature’s progress in advancing health care priorities comes from Rep. Dylan Roberts in this Q&A. He introduced several health care-related bills this session, including the successful bill requiring a report on a “public option” insurance model. Roberts represents Eagle and Routt Counties, serves as Chair of the House Rural Affairs and Capital Development Committees, and is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

“Almost every health care bill is bipartisan,” Roberts said. “And I think when we look back on this session — once all the bills are signed and everything — I think 2019 will be the most historic and transformative session in recent Colorado history, in terms of health care reform and increasing access to health care.”


3. What’s in the budget for health care

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis recently signed the Colorado Long Bill, which sets the budget for the next fiscal year, into law. The governor made health care a top priority, reflecting his stated goal to reduce the high cost of care. Emily Viles covered the several steps the budget takes toward the governor’s health care-related goals.

The budget creates a series of key policy objectives, including a focus on mental health and family planning. And, it allocates funding from existing programs into other areas, attempting to expand access to care across the state. Medicaid was also a major focus — the budget sets a series of targeted rate adjustments and new guidelines for benefit-eligibility requirements.

4. Rx drug importation looks more likely

The “Colorado Wholesale Importation of Prescription Drugs Act” directs the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to design a program for importing prescription drugs from Canada. Gov. Jared Polis highlighted the effort in his first State of the State Address.

That state-run program can only become a reality with federal approval, which is looking more likely after a meeting last week between Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Past secretaries have denied approval for bills similar to Colorado’s, but the tables may be turning due to President Donald Trump’s consideration and support for the idea.


5. “Medicare for All” and its price tag

Recently, “Medicare for All” legislation received its first Congressional hearing. The hearing, which attracted a great deal of partisan debate, discussed many of the unanswered questions regarding the shift from a patchwork payer model across various lines of business, to a single-payer health care system. We published coverage of the hearing here.

Following the hearing, the Congressional Budget Office released a report suggesting the process of creating such a plan could be more difficult than originally anticipated. The report explained how a single-payer system could be constructed, how it could be paid for, and some of the challenges that lawmakers face in establishing rules and regulations for the Medicare for All model.