Legislative Update: Moving at Light Speed

Telehealth allows doctors to move at the speed of light, seeing patients all across our far-flung state at the touch of a button. A telehealth measure, House Bill 1029, isn’t exactly moving at light speed, but in legislative terms, it’s flying fast.

The bill would require insurance companies to treat telehealth services the same as regular face-to-face visits in all Colorado counties. Right now, it’s mandatory that insurance companies pay for telehealth only in counties with fewer than 150,000 residents. The bill is up for its second hearing this afternoon at 1:30 in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. It has already passed the House on a 58-6 vote.

Today’s hearing will be crucial to see whether the bill can retain its bipartisan support in the Senate and become the first major health care bill to pass the legislature in 2015.

Here’s a look at what else is happening in health policy:

This Week

Autism: Senate Bill 15 requires insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders. It passed the Senate 34-0 Wednesday. It now goes to the House.

Needle sticks: Senate Bill 116 seeks to prevent police officers from getting stuck by drug needles during searches. It allows drug users to avoid a charge of possessing drug paraphernalia if they warn an officer they are carrying a needle prior to being searched. The Senate passed the bill 34-0 Wednesday. It’s now headed for the House.

Day treatment centers: House Bill 1023 smooths the way for young people up to age 20 with development disabilities or behavioral health issues to go to a day treatment center. It passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a 5-0 vote Wednesday and has been placed on the Senate’s consent calendar for non-controversial bills.

Genetic counseling: House Bill 1147 would require people who provide genetic counseling to be licensed by the state. Its first hearing is this afternoon in the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee.

Affordable Care Act: House Bill 1163 would repeal all Colorado laws related to the Affordable Care Act, but it would take effect only if the federal health care law is repealed. It’s also up for a hearing at the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee this afternoon.

Maternal mortality: House Bill 1111 would set up a committee to find ways to reduce deaths during pregnancy. The bill, which seeks funding for the effort, is in the House Appropriations Committee on Friday morning.

Paramedics: House Bill 1015 allows interstate compacts to let emergency medical service providers practice across state lines. It passed the House Thursday morning.

Naturopaths: House Bill 1075 allows registered naturopathic doctors to treat children under age 2 in certain circumstances. It passed the House on Thursday morning.

Next Week

Contraceptives: Governor John Hickenlooper has requested $5 million to fund a successful pregnancy prevention program through House Bill 1194. The bill has bipartisan sponsors, but some conservatives are objecting for religious reasons. The first hearing is Tuesday in the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee.

Home care tax credits: House Bill 1143 seeks tax incentives for people who outfit their homes so they can remain there instead of going to a nursing home. It dropped off the calendar last week, but it’s now scheduled for a hearing February 26 at the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee.

Abortion: House Bill 1041 would make it a class 3 felony for a doctor to perform an abortion, with exceptions. Its first hearing is February 26 in the House Judiciary Committee.

Connect for Health Colorado: Senate Bill 52 requires legislative approval of bonuses for Connect for Health employees. Its first House hearing is Thursday in the Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. It has already passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote, although most Democrats were opposed.

Medical marijuana: Senate Bill 14 tightens regulation over caregivers – people who provide medical marijuana. Its first hearing is February 26 in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

New Bills

Marijuana labels: Senate Bill 136 tightens  requirements on the packaging of retail marijuana products. It is assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

PACE program: Senate Bill 137 would let for-profit companies offer the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). It is assigned to the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee.

Joe is Manager of Public Policy Outreach at CHI.