Democrats’ plan to institute government-controlled health insurance is officially in jeopardy as Democrats grow increasingly frustrated with Gov. Polis, the Colorado Sun reports.
The anxieties come against the backdrop of increasing pressure from Democratic leadership and Gov. Jared Polis to get the legislation across the finish line. A number of rank-and-file Democrats are privately expressing frustration over what they consider the governor’s heavy hand on House Bill 1232 and other pending measures.
As it stands Democrat divisions on HB 1232 are so wide it may not even have the votes to pass.
The bill initially planned to fine doctors and even suspend medical licenses for hospitals who fail to accept Democrats’ proposed government-controlled health insurance plan.
An analysis released last Thursday from the state’s Legislative Council staff says those punitive measures could reduce access to care or even close medical facilities altogether.
To the extent that reduced-premium health plans result in reduced reimbursement rates for health care providers, the bill may impact economic and health outcomes depending on the financial circumstances and decisions made by individual providers. Specifically, to the extent that health care providers respond to financial changes that accompany the bill by reducing the provision of health care services or closing facilities, these impacts may offset economic and health outcomes resulting from reduced health insurance premiums or may increase existing disparities depending on the demographic make-up of a provider’s service region.
Curiously, this analysis was completed May 17 but only released the following Thursday after a key vote in the state Senate.
Q for #COpolitics & #COleg: Why was publication of Leg Council note on #HB1232, which says bill may lead to "reducing the provision of health care services or closing facilities," delayed 3 days? Completed May 17, published May 20 (i.e. after key vote in Senate health committee) pic.twitter.com/7zSBAPKIET
— Simon R. Lomax (@simonrlomax) May 21, 2021
The delayed release of the analysis came against the backdrop of widening divisions among Democrats on the issue.
State Sen. Rhonda Fields, chair of the state Senate Health Committee, initially wouldn’t even commit to voting for the final bill unless it is amended, which it subsequently was to assuage her concerns.
According to the Colorado Sun, Boulder Democrat Sonya Jaquez Lewis called concerns from Fields and other Democrats “crazy.”
Sen. Rhonda Fields, an Aurora Democrat and chair of the committee, said she doesn’t “like the tone” of the bill, namely its punitive nature, during the seven minutes she spoke about the things she doesn’t like in the measure.
“I think that sends the wrong message when I think about the social and emotional support that I think our health care providers and our doctors and nurses need right now,” she said.
The bill passed 4-3 along party lines. Only Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, a Boulder County Democrat on the panel, lauded the measure. “That was crazy,” Jaquez Lewis said as she left the tense committee hearing.
Fields is certainly no conservative, so it appears Democrats genuinely fear a political backlash may result from Polis railroading this measure through the legislature.
The last time Democrats passed unpopular healthcare reform along party lines was in 2014, and it resulted in a wave of election wins for Republicans.
Ultimately the State Senate passed their own version this week that removed the penalties for doctors who refuse to accept the state regulated health insurance option.
However in doing so insurance companies now oppose the bill because they will not likely be able to contract with an adequate number of doctors and reduce premiums as prescribed by the legislation.
The change helped win Field’s support. But it also angered private insurers, who said the alteration was untenable — making it more difficult for insurers to lower prices while still meeting requirements that they contract with an adequate network of doctors. As a result, the Colorado Association of Health Plans moved to an “oppose” position on the bill.
Democrats in the House now have to figure out their next move. They could either stick with their previous version, accept the Senate’s changes, or send their bills to a conference committee.
What final version of the bill could emerge remains to be seen.
A nonprofit interest group representing healthcare providers bashed the version that came out of the Senate.
“As lawmakers have now rushed this poorly designed rewritten legislation to passage without proper actuarial analysis, the end result is nothing new or innovative, just more bad policy,” said Executive Director of America’s Health Care Future Crawford Shaver.