At the moment, both senators from Colorado are Democrats, and so is our governor. But the state population is much more evenly split in terms of political affiliation, with only a few thousand more registered Democrats than Republicans. Colorado is indeed a swing state, and there is no real consensus among the people here when it comes to the direction health care reform should take.
When we look at bills that are expected to be introduced in the 2010 legislative session in Colorado, we see the collision of dramatically opposing viewpoints, with bills that would both enhance and disable the impacts of federal health care reform. Rep. K. Jerry Frangas, a Denver Democrat, is proposing a bill that would require individual health insurance policies in Colorado to cover birth control and maternity care. While such a move sounds good in terms of expanding access to health care, I am hesitant to support it without seeing specific numbers regarding how much individual health insurance premiums would increase if maternity care were to be a part of all policies. Premiums in the individual market have seen double digit annual increases for years now, and adding a maternity mandate might make coverage unaffordable for more people. But Rep. Frangas’ bill would help to remove the gender discrimination that is inherent in the status quo, where a major health care requirement for women – maternity care – isn’t covered on most individual policies in Colorado.
On the other side of the debate, Durango Republican Ellen Roberts and Western Slope Independent (former Democrat) Kathleen Curry are proposing a bill that would impose a one year moratorium on mandates in the Colorado health insurance market. If this bill – expected to be introduced early in the session – passes, it would mean that the maternity mandate would be stalled until 2011. In addition, Jon Caldera of the Independence Institute (a conservative/Libertarian think tank in Colorado) is proposing a ballot initiative for November that would basically allow Colorado to opt out of some key aspects of federal health care reform, including the requirement that everyone purchase health insurance.
For lawmakers in Colorado, nothing is a given when it comes to statewide legislation. There are particular areas of the state that are predominately Democrat or Republican, but when it comes to passing a measure that impacts the whole state, both sides have their work cut out for them. For swing states like Colorado, the passage of federal health care reform will be just the beginning of another intense round of debates.