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Colorado Officials Seek Input on New "Public Option" Health Plan

A recent report found Colorado hospitals could have saved consumers more than $11.5 billion over nine years by reining in administration costs and profit margins. (Pixabay)
A recent report found Colorado hospitals could have saved consumers more than $11.5 billion over nine years by reining in administration costs and profit margins. (Pixabay)
October 14, 2019

DENVER — Colorado officials want to hear from the public on a new proposal to add a more affordable "public option" for health coverage.

Adela Flores-Brennan, executive director with the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, said the plan will help control costs to consumers, in part by spurring competition at a time when hospitals, drug corporations, and insurers are raking in profits. The proposal would require insurers with a certain market share to provide public-option plans across the state.

"When we talk to consumers out in different areas of the state where they maybe only have the option of one particular company selling health coverage, they wonder what they're missing and they wonder if they could get a better deal with something else,” Flores-Brennan said.

The plan also would set rates for payments to hospitals and other providers based on what Medicare pays for similar services. The public-option proposal also aims to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by requiring companies to be transparent about rebates and to pass them along directly to consumers.

Hospital advocates have warned set payment rates could lead health providers to limit patient services.

A recent state report suggested hospitals have some wiggle room in their budgets. The report found Colorado hospitals could have saved consumers more than $11 billion over nine years by reining in administrative costs and profit margins.

Flores-Brennan said setting benchmarks for payments will increase accountability and lead to lower consumer costs.

"Because ultimately, health care is about the patient, we need to be asking some of our providers and our hospitals to be stepping up and helping as part of that process,” she said.

Public comments on the proposal can be submitted to the Colorado Division of Insurance and Department of Health Care Policy and Finance through October 25. The plan is set to be finalized in November. After lawmakers approve the plan and the DOI approves rates, the public option is expected to roll out in 2022.

Disclosure: Colorado Consumer Health Initiative contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO