Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Kefalas Bill To Authorize Study of Single-Payer Health Care System in State Gets Committee Exam Today

A bill that would create a privately-funded review commission to study how a publicly-funded and privately-managed single-payer health system would work in Colorado was approved this evening by a House committee.

HB 1273, which is sponsored by Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, would not create a single-payer health system. The measure does, however, include a schedule under which the legislature would consider whether to create such a delivery system in the state.

“Our objective is to create a more streamlined system that focuses on better-value, quality health care,” Kefalas said. “Almost 800,000 folks in Colorado are uninsured. We have to do better. The Health Care Authority will look for 21st century solutions. Right now, our medical industry is drowning in paperwork. Energy and resources are being wasted on inefficiencies when they ought to be directed toward building a healthy, insured Colorado workforce.”

If the bill becomes law, and the study commission it creates is formed, adequately financed, and prepares its report on time, the General Assembly would take up the question of establishing a single-payer health care system in 2011.

The commission would be made up of 23 members. It would explore how a single-payer system not managed or controlled by the state government would work and how, if the state is not paying for health care services on behalf of Colorado residents, the system could be financed.

The proposed Colorado Health Care Authority would have to raise funds privately to pay for its work. If enough funds were not raised by July 1, 2011, the work of the commission would end.

The cost of the commission's work is estimated to be about $1.4 million.

A commission established in 2007 by Gov. Bill Ritter, which also studied health care delivery in the state, said that a single-payer health care system merited further study but did not include it in a list of recommendations for reform Because members concluded existing federal law does not permit a state to adopt a single-payer delivery system.

A report issued by the Colorado Health Institute in 2006 said that 17 percent of the state's residents do not have health insurance.

The House Business Affairs & Labor Committee sent the bill to the House Appropriations Committee on a 5-4 vote.

With the exceptions of Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, and Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, who were absent, all of the committee's Democrats supported the bill and all of the panel's GOP members opposed it.