After a potential hiccup earlier this month, it appears that the process to create a Colorado health insurance exchange is back on track in the legislature. The Legislative Council Committee voted overwhelmingly today to send Senate Bill 200 on to the Senate as a whole. SB 200 was first introduced last month as a bipartisan venture to begin the process of creating a health insurance exchange specific to Colorado. The PPACA requires that all states have exchanges starting in 2014, but states that opt to not set up their own exchange can elect to be part of a federal exchange instead. Colorado lawmakers felt (rightly so, I believe) that it makes more sense for Colorado to design and implement an exchange that addresses the specific needs of the state rather than rely on a federally created exchange, and introduced SB200 to get the ball rolling.
However, the political nature of healthcare reform made it a tough sell for Republicans who were backing SB200. Some lawmakers and constituents felt that the whole concept of health insurance exchanges was too tied into the PPACA. So earlier this month, Rep. Amy Stephens (the Republican co-sponsor of SB200) asked that an amendment be added to SB200 that would require Colorado to opt out of federal healthcare reform in order for the exchange bill to take effect.
Democrats in the state legislature did not support the amendment, and there was concern at the time that the controversy could doom the bill before it ever really got started. But today’s vote to send the bill to the Senate as a whole – without the amendment requiring Colorado to opt out of the PPACA – gives new life to the bill.
Regardless of whether you support the federal healthcare reform laws, it’s hard to see how it would be better for Colorado to forgo creating a state-specific exchange. Doing so would mean that Colorado would have to participate in a federally-run exchange instead, and obviously such a program is not going to be geared to the specific needs of the people and businesses in Colorado. So although there are still likely to be plenty of legal battles over the Constitutionality and implementation of the federal healthcare reform law, it makes sense for states to move ahead in creating their own exchanges.