Time for Some Real Legislating

Warm-up time is over for the Colorado legislative session. After a few weeks of ceremonies and getting-to-know-you meetings, lawmakers are starting to vote on a stack of interesting bills.

Next week will be a busy one in health policy.

Nearly two dozen health groups will converge on the Capitol rotunda for Health Matters, the first-ever Health Policy Day at the Capitol. Stop by Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and to meet experts convened by CHI. Chat with us our colleagues from the Colorado Health Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, Caring for Colorado Foundation, the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, the Center for Improving Value in Health Care and many more of the state’s leading health policy organizations. Check Twitter for updates at #COHealthPolicy17.

The week in health legislation gets started Tuesday afternoon, when the Senate Finance Committee takes up Senate Bill 3, a repeal of Connect for Health Colorado. The hearing was delayed a week, but that didn’t stop some 500 protesters from showing up on the Capitol steps on Jan. 31 to oppose the bill as several Democratic legislators urged them on. While the sponsor, Sen. Jim Smallwood (R), says his bill is not a statement on the Affordable Care Act, the national debate about health care was clearly on the minds of the protest crowd this week.

On Wednesday, Sen. John Kefalas (D) gets a hearing for his bill to crack down on freestanding emergency rooms, SB 64. Colorado has seen a proliferation of these facilities, which some patients visit for minor conditions without anticipating the high costs of emergency room care. SB 64 is in the Senate State Affairs Committee, which for years has served as a place the majority party can reliably kill bills from the minority. Kefalas’s bill may not live through next week, but we don’t expect the controversy over freestanding ERs to disappear so quickly.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee has a full schedule Thursday afternoon, highlighted by SB 84, which would forbid health insurance companies from withdrawing coverage from drugs or raising consumer costs for drugs during a plan year. 

Over in the House, three Republican bills on abortion are scheduled for the Health, Insurance, and Environment Committee. House Bill 1085 would put tighter restrictions on clinics that perform abortions. HB 1086 would require the state health department and doctors to inform women about the possibility of reversing the “abortion pill” with a certain treatment. And HB 1108 would make it a Class 1 felony to perform an abortion from the moment of fertilization through childbirth, except to save the life of the mother. In Colorado, a Class 1 felony carries a sentence of life in prison or, in rare cases, the death penalty. None of the three bills is expected to pass in the Democratic-majority committee.

In the coming weeks, look for CHI’s recap on the progress or demise of notable health-related proposals, and for some deeper dives on topics from the state health insurance exchange to the debate over freestanding ERs.

Joe is Manager of Public Policy Outreach at CHI.