The Halfway Point, Daylight Savings and So Much Coffee

This past Sunday, it was time to “spring forward.” The CHI team set our clocks ahead one hour and increased our coffee consumption for another busy week.

We had actually sprung into action the week before when Congressional Republicans in Washington introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and sent analysts scrambling. You can find CHI’s research on the GOP’s plan, including a new report on projected changes to Colorado’s Medicaid budget and enrollment, here. We’d like to thank caffeine for helping us through hours of data analysis, writing, editing and presentations. We couldn’t have done it without you.

But with all the focus on debates at the federal level, bills have continued to move through our state legislature. We are just past the halfway point in the 2017 legislative session. More than 60 bills have already been signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper, while others quickly met their demise. Hundreds are still up in the air.

We are waiting on several notable health care bills – for example, another try at regulating freestanding emergency departments – but have our eyes on other recently introduced proposals. At the top of the list are three bills backed by Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne, all of which feature bipartisan sponsors:

House Bill 1235 – Financial Relief to Defray Individual Health Plans’ Cost

  • What the bill proposes: Would extend insurance subsidies for plans purchased on the state exchange to people whose household income is between 400 and 500 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) and who spend at least 15 percent of their income on insurance premiums. Currently, subsidies are available only to those with incomes below 400 percent FPL.
  • Sponsors: Reps. Diane Mitsch Bush (D) and Millie Hamner (D), Sens. Larry Crowder (R) and Don Coram (R)

House Bill 1236 – Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) Annual Report on Hospital Expenditures

  • What the bill proposes: Would instruct HCPF to publish an annual report detailing hospitals’ uncompensated care costs and different categories of expenditures, and require hospitals to make available the data required to write these reports (e.g., cost reports, utilization and staffing information).
  • Sponsors: Rep. Chris Kennedy (D), Sens. Jim Smallwood (R) and Don Coram (R)

House Bill 1237 – State Employee Group Benefit Plans for Local Government

  • What the bill proposes: Would allow local governments to offer health benefits to their employees through the group benefit plans currently reserved for state employees. The change would take effect in August 2017.
  • Sponsors: Rep. Millie Hamner (D), Sens. Don Coram (R) and Larry Crowder (R)

HB 1236 is up for its first hearing in the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee on March 23, while HB 1235 and HB 1237 will be considered in the same committee a week later.

Other bills are advancing. A quick summary of three votes we watched this week:

House Bill 1121 – Patient Safety Act

  • What the bill proposes: Would expand fingerprint-based criminal background check requirements to a broad set of health care providers, such as dentists, podiatrists, veterinarians and certified nurse aides. It would also replace the existing Nurse Licensure Compact with an enhanced version. The bill – which is more than 80 pages long – follows strong support for increased regulation of surgical technicians in the 2016 legislative session.
  • What happened: The bill passed the House Finance Committee on a party-line 7-5 vote. Earlier, it had cleared House Health, Insurance and Environment by a 6-4 margin. And HB 1121 still has another House committee to go: it is awaiting a date for a hearing in Appropriations.
  • Sponsor: Rep. Janet Buckner (D)

Senate Bill 74 – Create Medication-Assisted Treatment Pilot Program

  • What the bill proposes: Would allow more medication-assisted addiction treatment in two areas of the state hit especially hard by the opioid crisis: Pueblo and Routt counties. The program would be administered by the University of Colorado College of Nursing. The request? An appropriation of $500,000 from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund in each of the next two fiscal years to fund area organizations involved in behavioral health and substance use treatment.
  • What happened: The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee 6-1 (after sailing through Senate Health and Human Services 5-0). Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R) was the lone “no” vote. After clearing both of its assigned Senate committees, SB 74 heads to the Senate floor. It was scheduled for its second-reading vote this morning but has been delayed.
  • Sponsors: Sen. Leroy Garcia (D), Rep. Daneya Esgar (D)

Senate Bill 65 – Transparency in Direct-Pay Health Care Prices

  • What the bill proposes: Would require health care professionals and facilities to make available the direct-pay prices they charge for at least their 15 most common health care services. This would not apply in situations involving a public or third-party payer. The services in question go beyond medical care, also including dental, optometric and mental health. SB 65 first gained attention for its unlikely pair of co-sponsors, indicating its appeal to legislators on both sides of the aisle.
  • What happened: The bill was approved 9-2 by the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. It needs to pass just two more votes – both on the House floor –to go to the governor for signature.
  • Sponsors: Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R), Rep. Susan Lontine (D)

Look for more commentary about issues at the state capitol – not to mention the *little* debate over health care in D.C. – from Team CHI. At least we won’t be dealing with the next time change until November.