Last week it appeared that Colorado Democrats and Republicans were prepared to work together to begin the process of creating a health insurance exchange for the state. But the bipartisan friendliness didn’t last long. House Majority Leader Amy Stephens (R – Monument) is a co-sponsor of the bill, and has faced a lot of criticism in the past week from conservative Republicans and the Tea Party over her support for the legislation to create the exchange. Stephens has also co-sponsored a bill that would allow Colorado to opt out of federal health care reform laws, and she has made it clear that she does not support the PPACA. But she and other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle felt that starting the process of creating an exchange in Colorado would ultimately be in the state’s best interest, as it would allow them to design an exchange that would be specific to Colorado’s needs rather than having the state join the federal exchange.
It appears that healthcare reform has become such a polarized topic that it’s difficult for lawmakers to have any stance other than for it or against it. Even though the health insurance exchanges would be marketplaces that sell private health insurance, the word “exchange” has been thrown around so much during the reform debates that many opponents of the PPACA see it as synonymous with “ObamaCare”. Those who are strongly opposed to the current reform guidelines might see lawmakers’ efforts to create an exchange as a capitulation to federal reform, regardless of whether or not a state-based exchange might ultimately end up being in Colorado’s best interest.
Rep. Stephens has now asked for an amendment to SB 200 that would require Colorado to opt out of federal healthcare reform in order for SB 200 to take effect. Her co-sponsor, Senator Betty Boyd (D – Lakewood) does not support the amendment, and it failed in the Senate. But it will likely have stronger support in the Republican-dominated House. Unless the House and Senate can come to a compromise, the issue of whether or not Colorado has to opt out of federal healthcare reform in order to create an exchange could sink the bill all together.