That's a Wrap: The Key Health Policy Themes of the 2013 Legislative Session

After a 120-day whirlwind, the 2013 Colorado legislative session has officially come to close.  This year was a particularly busy one for lawmakers; the Colorado legislature passed hundreds of bills, including controversial measures dealing with education finance, gun control, civil unions and recreational marijuana.

Health care was also a big focus in 2013. Every year the Colorado Health Institute analyzes the major health policy trends that emerged at the Capitol. We will publish our annual Legislation in Review report within the coming weeks to provide a more comprehensive overview of the 2013 session, but today we offer you a sneak preview of the top four health policy themes that characterized the legislation of the past four months.

  1. Implementation of Federal Health Care Reform: We saw a number of major bills that pave the way for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014. While the feds dictate the major rules and regulations of Obamacare, many of the nuts and bolts of how health reform will be implemented are being determined at the state level.  Here in Colorado, we saw bills to harmonize state statutes with the new mandates of the federal law, a bill to provide funding for Colorado’s insurance exchange, and a bill to expand eligibility for the Medicaid program, SB-200, which was arguably the most noteworthy – and controversial – health-related legislation of the session.
  2. Increased Investment in Health Care: With more dollars available in the state budget, many bills made significant new investments in Colorado’s health care system. This year there was a particular focus on behavioral health and oral health.  Key legislation included a bill to add a dental benefit for adults covered by Medicaid, a bill to overhaul the state’s oral health grants program and a bill to fund a statewide mental health crisis response system, among others.
  3. New Reporting Requirements and Regulations: Several bills altered current reporting requirements and other regulations within the health care system. Many of these bills aimed to reduce fraud, waste and abuse, while others sought to improve transparency or consumer protections.  For example, the legislature set stricter requirements for reporting of elder abuse and updated the inspection practices for Medicaid providers.  We also saw bills related to “alternative” health care services, including a measure to regulate naturopaths and another to regulate other non-traditional health care providers.
  4. System Efficiency: We didn’t really see any landmark health care innovation bills this session, but we did see several incremental policy changes designed to modernize Colorado’s health care system, setting the stage for future improvements and efficiencies. For example, several bills restructured the health-related duties of various state departments, which proponents say will help to streamline the system and pave the way for better patient care.  Another bill requires the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) to make an annual report to the legislature about efforts to reduce waste and duplication within the state’s Accountable Care Collaborative (ACC) program.

Governor Hickenlooper has until June 7 to sign the remaining bills that have been sent to his desk. The Colorado Health Institute’s 2013 Legislation in Review Report will provide a more detailed overview of the themes and bills discussed above and will be released by the end of the month.