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Hickenlooper Goes to Washington with Health-Care Fix

Gov. John Hickenlooper will testify on health care on Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. (Getty Images)
Gov. John Hickenlooper will testify on health care on Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. (Getty Images)
September 6, 2017

DENVER - Gov. John Hickenlooper takes a plan to Congress this week, developed with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, aimed at fixing some of the Affordable Care Act's shortcomings.

The proposal incorporates key elements designed to stabilize the individual insurance markets, increase competition and promote enrollment, said Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative.

"Congress should really be looking at this plan as a starting point for how they can work constructively, in a bipartisan fashion, on health care," he said.

Fox said the plan would help create much-needed certainty in the insurance industry by assuring carriers that they'll continue to be compensated for keeping out-of-pocket costs down for low-income customers. Last week, the Trump administration cut the ACA's advertising budget for open enrollment by 90 percent and reduced funding for outreach by some $23 million.

Fox said promoting enrollment is critical to get more healthy people to buy insurance, which helps keep the individual market stable. Another key component of the Hickenlooper-Kasich blueprint, he said, is a plan to convince insurers to open up shop in counties with only one provider.

"To really try to create some more competition," he said, "that would have some downward pressure on health insurance premiums for people in rural areas, who have typically experienced much higher costs."

The two governors' proposals also leave Medicaid intact, a departure from a slew of recent GOP efforts to defund a program Fox said hospitals across the nation rely on to keep their doors open.

"This plan really focuses on the individual market," he said, "and leaves Medicaid as sort of the frame that all of our health coverage systems build upon."

According to Congressional Budget Office estimates, plans to cut Medicaid by nearly $1 trillion would have resulted in more than 20 million Americans losing coverage. Colorado's governor is set to testify Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The blueprint is online at governor.ohio.gov.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO