Last month I wrote about Colorado HB 1273 and the possibility of a state-wide single payer health insurance program. While I applauded the bill’s intention of searching for a way to provide health care to the 800,000 (probably more after a year of recession) residents of Colorado who are uninsured, it just didn’t seem logistically feasible to set up a single payer health insurance system in the middle of 49 other states that still operate with private health insurance (even in Mass., where health insurance is mandatory, it’s still mostly purchased from private insurers).
Last week, the Colorado House gave up on HB 1273, noting that they didn’t have enough votes to pass it.
As long as the rest of the country has private health insurance, it really doesn’t make sense for any one state to set up its own single payer health insurance system. We absolutely need to focus on providing access to health care for the people of Colorado who don’t have health insurance. But rather than reinventing the wheel as a single state, it makes more sense to expand programs that are already here. HB 1293, introduced earlier this year by Gov. Ritter, will expand access to Medicaid and CHP+, with funds generated from a tax levied on hospitals. This is a good start towards reducing the number of uninsureds in Colorado.
Cover Colorado, the state’s high risk pool, already offers premium discounts to people who earn less than $50,000. Expanding that subsidy to bring Cover Colorado premiums more in line with private health insurance premiums would help people who are unable to obtain private health insurance because of a medical condition (in case legislators are looking for any ideas…).
Health care reform is a hot topic lately, and it’s anybody’s guess what our health care system will look like ten years from now. I think states might be able to expand existing programs and offer increased subsidies and tax incentives to people who enroll in health insurance plans, especially once the economy turns around and states have more money available. But I doubt that states will be able to implement sweeping changes without similar changes occuring on a federal level.