Colorado lawmakers put their controversial public option plan on ice Monday, saying that consumers, providers and other stakeholders haven't been able to weigh in on the bill because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill's sponsors promised to resurrect the effort next year, arguing that the economic fallout from the outbreak demonstrates that there's a need for more affordable health coverage options in the state.
"As the economic devastation unfolds and more Coloradans lose their access to employer-based insurance, it's clearer than ever that our system is broken," said state Rep. Dylan Roberts (D), one of the bill's co-sponsors, in an announcement.
The Colorado Hospital Association had fought the effort tooth and nail, calling the proposal a flawed attempt at government rate-setting, and pushing its own plan for a statewide healthcare budget similar to policies in Oregon and Massachusetts.
Colorado Democrats had made their public option proposal the crown jewel of their 2020 agenda. But hospitals, dark money groups and the well-heeled, industry-financed Partnership for America's Health Care Future went hard after the bill because they feared it would reduce provider revenues. Defenders of the bill say it could pave the way forward for a national public option, just like healthcare reform in Massachusetts created a model for the Affordable Care Act.
Under the Colorado Affordable Health Care Option, the state's insurance commissioner would have to establish a public-private partnership with a commercial insurer to offer a plan to consumers through Colorado's individual marketplace. All providers in the state would have to accept the coverage, which the bill's proponents had hoped would go into effect as soon as January 1, 2022.
The legislation called for the state to establish a plan that would provide first-dollar coverage for select services, peg hospital reimbursements to Medicare rates and require a minimum medical-loss ratio of 85%. It would also force insurance carriers and pharmacy benefit managers to pass on the savings from drug rebates to consumers covered under the public option.