Colorado health care advocates laud Inflation Reduction Act and its impact on costs

Health care advocates in Colorado are lauding the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act for its provisions to lower health care costs for Coloradans. 

 

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Speaking at a press event after the US Senate passed the legislation last week, the state’s Democratic US Senators Michael Bennetand John Hickenlooper both spoke to the legislation’s impact on their constituents.

“Fifty years from now this will be called the start of The Great Transition. When we transitioned to a clean energy economy. When we took a decisive step in the fight against climate change,” Hickenlooper said.

 

“It was wonderful to celebrate the Inflation Reduction Act in Denver today with Coloradans who will benefit from these investments,” Bennet said. “From lowering drug costs to fighting climate change, this historic bill is a major step toward pursuing an agenda in Washington that reflects the needs of Colorado.”

The federal government’s new authority to negotiate prices of costly prescription medications under Medicare would help older Coloradans by lowering prices on 10 drugs in 2026, another 15 drugs in 2027, 15 again in 2028, and up to 20 drugs per year for 2029 and beyond. The legislation would also place a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket spending for Part D prescription medications starting in 2025 and a $35 per month cap on insulin prices starting next year for those enrolled in Medicare. 

According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than 113,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Colorado would benefit from lower costs to Part D prescription drugs from the new provisions.

“For health care consumers, especially older people and others who are on Medicaid Part D, the legislation will mean reduced costs on prescription drugs,” the Colorado Fiscal Institute said in its analysis of the Inflation Reduction Act. “And for those who get their health insurance through state exchanges, the bill will help them avoid potentially huge increases in premiums.

Finally, we will all benefit from a fairer tax code. Rich corporations have been racking up huge profits in recent years, and by closing tax loopholes that mostly benefit them and people who make over $400,000 a year, Congress is sending a message that the tax code should be fairer for working people.”

The Inflation Reduction Act extends subsidies for the ACA marketplace through 2025. Previously under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, beneficiaries received enhanced premium subsidies for plans purchased through the marketplace. The temporary subsidies that were set to expire at the end of 2022 will continue to support those enrolled on affordable plans for an additional 3 years.

“I thank President Biden for signing this important bill into law. I’m grateful and extremely excited to plan for the 3-year extension of additional savings for our customers,” said Connect for Health Colorado’s Chief Executive Officer Kevin Patterson.

“In Colorado, these enhanced subsidies lowered costs for 155,000 enrollees, reduced their average out-of-pocket costs by $900 per year and resulted in increased enrollments in rural communities across our state. I hope that the more than 200,000 Coloradans who rely on us to afford health insurance and get the health care they need can rest easier knowing this level of financial help will continue for years to come.”

According to Health Management Associates Managing Principal for the Colorado region, Gaurav Nagrath, the federal government will continue to lead efforts to build out policy and operational components to support statewide implementation of the reforms. 

“Various stakeholders will want to help inform CMS’s work on numerous issues through comments, standalone analysis, and other tools,” Nagrath said. “[CMS] also will need assistance analyzing and developing updated benefit designs and understanding how benefit redesigns and new pricing dynamics will impact business decisions, revenue, and patient behavior. The extension of ARPA’s enhanced subsidy structure provides more near-term certainty about eligibility and enrollment for the Colorado market. It also provides renewed momentum for CMS to engage with the state and its stakeholders on Marketplace policies and structures.”

Colorado has passed progressive legislation in recent years also aimed at making health care more affordable. 

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board is drafting a process to review the prices of prescription drugs in the state and establish upper payment limits for medications deemed to be too expensive. The board will collect and evaluate data from drug manufacturers and other stakeholders to make informed decisions about which prescription drugs are too expensive for consumers.

Starting in 2023, the Colorado Option will be available to all Coloradans who buy their health insurance on the individual market and small employers with less than 100 employees. It will also include new support for Coloradans that have been left out of the financial help provided under the ACA, while expanding subsidies for some consumers enrolled through Connect for Health Colorado. 

“We’re ecstatic to see the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, and in particular the continuation of the expanded ACA subsidies that have helped many Coloradans afford health insurance,” said Colorado’s Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway.  “We are excited to be able to show people the savings from the Inflation Reduction Act as we get closer to open enrollment.”