As the 2011 Colorado legislative session got underway last week, a couple of bills related to health care were introduced. We already addressed Senate Bill 19, which would allow small employers in Colorado to reimburse their employees for the cost of individual health insurance. Another bill – also aimed at reversing a current state law – is House Bill 1025. HB 1025, introduced by Colorado Springs Republican Rep Janak Joshi, would repeal the Health Care Affordability Act of 2009 (HB 1293). That act, signed into law by former Gov. Bill Ritter nearly two years ago, introduced the Hospital Provider Fee system to generate about $600 million annually in funds for the expansion of Medicaid, the Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+). Those funds are supplemented with federal matching of an additional $600 million for the expansion of those programs in Colorado. The Health Care Affordability Act was widely supported by hospital and medical groups in the state.
Thanks to the improvements Colorado has made in terms of getting eligible residents enrolled in Medicaid, Colorado qualified for a $13.7 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last month to help fund our Medicaid program. There is no doubt that the Health Care Affordability Act helped to make the expansion of Medicaid possible in Colorado over the last couple years.
The Colorado Hospital Association and The Colorado Medical Society are opposed to HB 1025. The Hospital Provider Fee is an expense for hospitals, but it is paid in large part by hospitals that see few uninsured patients, and can thus afford the cost. Hospitals like Denver Health, which struggle with the cost of treating uninsured patients, are finding it easier to stay afloat thanks to the Health Care Affordability Act. Similar provider fee systems are used in 40 states, and have generally widespread support.
Rep. Joshi, who introduced HB 1025, is a retired physician who practiced internal medicine, nephrology, and occupational medicine for 30 years in Colorado Springs. Health care is obviously an important issue for him, and he devotes a page of his website to health care legislation. His points follow pretty standard Republican philosophy, and he specifically addresses numerous bills in his discussion about health care. However, I couldn’t find any specifics on his site about why he’s opposed to HB 1293 or what value he’s presenting with HB 1025. It’s likely that he opposes the expansion of government health care programs, which was a primary goal of the Health Care Affordability Act. But without intervention of some sort, the uninsured population of Colorado was only growing, and placing more of a financial strain on hospitals like Denver Health.
It will be interesting to see how much support HB 1025 has. I’m also curious to hear the specific solutions its supporters have for making sure that the people enrolled in Medicaid, CICP, and CHP+ (because of funds generated by the Hospital Provider Fee) wouldn’t simply return to being uninsured. If they did, it would create a greater burden for hospitals – and thus insured patients – in areas with large numbers of uninsured residents.