Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hagedorn Introduces Broad Healthcare Reform Legislation

A bill that aims to get health insurance coverage into the hands of 800,000 Colorado residents who don't currently have it was introduced in the Senate March 28.

SB 217 would allow health insurers to provide the state with plans to expand coverage. A commission to study ways of making participation in those plans available to people who don't have health insurance would be created and would have to report to the General Assembly in 2009.

The measure would call for the use of federal block grant funds provided Colorado for health and other purposes to subsidize the premiums needed to secure the participation in the private sector health plans by uninsured individuals.

A commission appointed last year issued a report in January that concluded that extending coverage to all of the state's uninsured could cost as much as $1.5 billion.

The measure also includes a coverage mandate. All residents of the state would be required by law, if the bill is enacted, to obtain private health insurance coverage. In exchange, health insurance providers would be required to issue a policy to anyone who applies for one.

In a report published in the Denver Business Journal, sponsor Sen. Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, said that the approach proposed by his bill is the only practical alternative to a single-payer, government-run health care system.

The report also quoted Hagedorn as saying he has secured bipartisan support for the measure, including from Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, and Reps. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, and Ellen Roberts, R-Durango.

Massachusetts imposed a coverage mandate on its residents in 2007. According to a recent Boston Globe article, the program in that state is expected to cost $1.35 billion per year by 2011, up from $158 million in the first year of the program's life.

Vermont and Maine have also launched efforts at achieving universal private health insurance coverage in those states.