Colorado public health insurance option bill put on hold due to COVID-19

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Posted at 11:06 AM, May 04, 2020

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are withdrawing legislation for a public health insurance option until next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials announced on Monday.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Dylan Robert, called for the creation of the Colorado Affordable Health Insurance Option, also known as the Colorado Option.

If passed, the state would form a public-private partnership with insurance companies to offer the option to consumers through the state’s individual marketplace.

Donovan in a news release Monday said the bill's supporters "remain committed to developing affordable healthcare options that increase access and competition in every part of Colorado."

“When we introduced the bill, we sought robust engagement with nurses, pharmacists, EMTs, doctors, and hospital staff," bill co-sponsor Rep. Chris Kennedy said in the release. "We plan to engage them after we emerge from this pandemic, and come out with stronger legislation that increases access to affordable healthcare across Colorado.”

The proposed public option was years in the making; in 2019, lawmakers passed a bill that required the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing and the Division of Insurance to submit a proposal that contemplates the design, costs, benefits and implementation of a state-backed insurance option.

During his annual State of the State address, Governor Jared Polis announced his support for the idea.

If passed, the commissioner of insurance would be required to develop and implement the Colorado Option plan that would be offered to people who purchase health insurance through the individual market.

It would not apply to people who get their health insurance through their employers. Approximately 300,000 people in the state get their health insurance through the state-run exchange program Connect for Health Colorado.

Consumers who buy their insurance through the individual market would not be required to buy into the public option.