The First Mile Markers on the Road to May 10

And we’re off! It’s been a busy first two weeks of the legislative session, full of speeches and ceremony and yes, plenty of new bills. The 120-day session is too quick for a marathon, too long for a sprint — more like a fast-paced racewalk with some pushing and shoving along the way. (There are 1,275 days until the next Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Not that we’re counting.)

Thirty of our state’s 100 legislators are new to their seats since last year — 20 in the House and 10 in the Senate — so we have many new faces and opinions at the Capitol.

We’ve been splitting our focus between the Gold Dome and fast-paced developments in Washington. If you missed them, check out Joe Hanel’s blogs on how health featured in Governor Hickenlooper’s State of the State address and reactions to the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Almost 220 bills have already been introduced in the 2017 session. This is about a third of all bills we expect to see this year.

CHI has a long tracking list, covering topics such as behavioral health, providers’ scope of practice and changes to the Medicaid program. Here are some notable bills among the many we’ll be watching:

Sponsored by Sen. Jim Smallwood (R) and Rep. Patrick Neville (R). It would wind down the state’s insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, after one year. The bill faces steep odds, especially in the House. It will be heard in Senate Finance on January 31.

Sponsored by Sen. Lucia Guzman (D), the Senate Minority Leader. It’s another try to reclassify the Hospital Provider Fee as an enterprise fund so it does not count toward the revenue limit established by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR). Unless something big changes, this bill seems doomed. It’s headed to Senate Finance but does not yet have a hearing date.

Sponsored by Reps. Perry Buck (R) and Donald Valdez (D) and Sen. Larry Crowder (R). This is the first telehealth legislation in Colorado since a landmark bill to broaden reimbursement in 2015. The bill would clarify rules around telehealth delivery, including that people may receive services from a private residence. It will be heard in House Health, Insurance and Environment on February 7.

Sponsored by Sen. John Kefalas (D) and Rep. Susan Lontine (D), the bill would create a new license under CDPHE for freestanding EDs and put a moratorium on opening any new facilities until summer 2019. It is the product of a long stakeholder group process convened by Kefalas in the interim, but without any Republican sponsors and an assignment to the Senate State Affairs committee (date TBD), its chances look poor.

Sponsored by Sen. Leroy Garcia (D) and Rep. Daneya Esgar (D). The bill would allow more medication-assisted addiction treatment in areas of the state hit especially hard by the opioid crisis. This is one of several bills so far dealing with substance use and treatment. It will be heard in Senate Health and Human Services on February 8.

Sponsored by Sen. Cheri Jahn (D) and Reps. Daneya Esgar (D) and Jonathan Singer (D), the bill would prohibit insurers from dropping coverage for a drug for an enrollee if that drug had been covered when the person signed up for the plan. It remains to be seen if there will be any Republican support for the proposal. The bill will be heard in Senate Health and Human Services on February 9.

Sponsored by Rep. Janet Buckner (D), this would expand background check requirements to all health care providers who prescribe medication and to certified nurse aides. The bill follows a focus on increased regulation of surgical technicians in the 2016 session, which gained broad bipartisan support. It will be heard in House Health, Insurance and Environment on February 16.

We’re still waiting on other pieces of important legislation. Anticipated bills include a package of proposals to lower health care costs in the high country, another attempt at requiring drug pricing transparency from pharmaceutical companies and a Republican proposal to change the way the TABOR limit is calculated. All are sure to draw media attention if and when they’re introduced.

Check back for more updates from the CHI staff as the session progresses and more bills are heard. Lace up those tennis shoes and don’t forget to stretch.