Health and Human Services has proposed new waivers that would allow states more flexibility to come up with their own healthcare reform ideas, and the Obama Administration has said they support having those waivers in place by 2014, when the majority of the new healthcare rules will take effect. In order to qualify for a waiver, a state would have to basically come up with something equal to or better than what the federal government has designed, in terms of coverage levels, the number of residents insured, and the affordability of the policies.
The current legislative session in Colorado has already seen a number of healthcare-related bills introduced, including HB 1273 (which would allow Colorado to join together with other states to opt out of federal healthcare laws) and SB 168 (which would basically lay the groundwork for creating a healthcare cooperative in Colorado). SB 168 was approved last week by the Senate Business, Labor, and Technology Committee, with a 4-3 vote, but it’s unclear how it will fare as it moves through the legislative process this year. Both bills are relatively controversial and partisan, and generally have support from opposite sides of the aisle. HB 1273 is popular with people who would like to see Colorado opt out of what they see as over-reaching, expensive federal legislation. SB 168, on the other hand, is popular with people who would like to see the government (albeit on a state level) take more of an active role in providing health insurance. Both bills, however, would have Colorado take more of the responsibility for regulating and managing healthcare in the state.
Colorado has been taking an active role in reforming healthcare for some time now. As of 2011, health insurers here can no longer use gender in setting premiums, and all policies in Colorado now have to cover maternity care. And our legislators are obviously still focusing on healthcare reform at a state level, from several different angles. Based on the initiative the state has shown over the last few years, I’m guessing that if the state waivers are available from HHS as of 2014, Colorado will likely take advantage of the opportunity to craft at least some aspects of our own healthcare regulation.