On Day One, Seldom Was Heard a Health Policy Word

The yearly legislative session got under way today at the state Capitol, but based on the opening day’s rhetoric, health policy will not be a top priority in 2015.

The legislature heard speeches from the top Republican and Democrat in each chamber – Senate President Bill Cadman (R), Senate Minority Leader Morgan Carroll (D), Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst (D) and House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso (R).

None of the four mentioned any health policy goals for the 2015 session. Instead, all of them dwelt on economic topics, from Republican calls to cut regulations on business to Democratic laments about the low minimum wage. Legislative leaders customarily use their opening day speeches to set their top agenda items for the year, so the lack of a mention of health policy is a clue that it does not rank among either party’s top priorities in the coming months.

However, both Senate leaders talked about their families’ experiences with health crises. Cadman paid tribute to his mother, who battled cancer for years and died at age 42, a year after he graduated high school.

“She was an amazing woman with a huge heart,” he said.

And Carroll talked about medical debts that plagued her father’s last years.

“My dad lost a lifetime of his hard-earned wages and savings due to medical expenses from Parkinson’s disease and dementia,” she said.

Despite the lack of focus on health policy in the speeches, the first batch of bills introduced Wednesday includes a few that deal with health:

• House Bill 1029 would require insurance companies to cover telemedicine services across all of Colorado. Currently, insurance plans do not have to cover telemedicine for people in counties with a population greater than 150,000.

• Senate Bill 14 would make several changes to medical marijuana laws and require caregivers to register with the state.

• Senate Bill 15 would require health insurance plans to cover autism spectrum disorders with the same level of benefits available for physical illnesses.

• Senate Bill 19 would authorize a state audit of Connect for Health Colorado, the state’s health insurance marketplace.

CHI published its preview of the 2015 legislative session on Wednesday morning. It’s available for download here.

Joe is Manager of Public Policy Outreach at CHI.