Earlier this year we wrote about how the Colorado health benefits exchange might not be connected with the long-troubled Colorado Benefits Management System (CBMS), which handles existing public assistance programs including food stamps and Medicaid. But a recent report from the Urban Institute (funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) notes that the IT problems that plague CBMS will be a major hurdle for the Colorado health benefits exchange. That would seem to indicate that both programs are expected to either run on the same IT platform or have compatible IT that will allow them to be interoperable. It’s doubtful that the Urban Institute folks would have noted the IT problems with CBMS as an issue for the health benefits exchange if the two programs were actually going to operate independently. Although there are a lot of technical issues to work through, the state plans to enter into contracts by the middle of this year with IT vendors who can upgrade CBMS and develop the IT platform for the health benefits exchange.
On the upside, the Urban Institute report gives Colorado props for making good overall progress on setting up the health benefits exchange. Despite the political hot seat that health care reform has been for the past few years, Colorado lawmakers managed to work together to create the framework for our health benefits exchange last year. We have a board of directors in place and the state is moving forward as fast as possible to get things in place for the exchange to be up and running in 2014. A lot is still unknown with regards to the future of the ACA, since the Supreme Court still has to issue their ruling in June regarding the legality of the individual mandate. But if the ACA remains in place and the health insurance exchanges become reality across the country, it’s safe to say that Colorado will be ahead of the curve in terms of getting the bugs ironed out.
The Urban Institute report notes that Colorado had a head start on a lot of the reform issues thanks to the 2008 Blue Ribbon Commission Report. Remember back when that was the big news in health care reform in Colorado? Before health care reform became such a divisive topic across the country, Colorado was working to come up with solutions to many of the problems with our health care system. Some of the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission are very similar to the new guidelines in the ACA, and Colorado had been taking active steps for the past four years to implement the Blue Ribbon recommendations. If the ACA remains in place, it should be a bit easier for Colorado to make the necessary transitions over the next few years, thanks to the progress the state has already made on its own.