Health-care exchange wins an early approval

DENVER — The idea of creating health care exchanges in Colorado didn’t become controversial until Congress approved a health insurance reform measure last year, Senate Democrats said Monday.

So why would it be now, asked Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora.

“When we heard an overwhelming voice from the business community in support of Senate Bill 200, it was for two reasons,” Carroll said. “It was because it respected free-marketplace principles and it helps their business bottom line … to help hold down prices. One of the fastest-growing line-items in their budgets is the cost of health insurance.”

The exchanges, called for in the bill that won preliminary approval Monday in the Senate, are similar to one called for in the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act approved by Congress last year after much turmoil.

Unlike the federal act, the one called for in the measure would be run by a state panel of insurance and health care experts.

As a result, it’s not much different than other ideas tried in the past in Colorado, Carroll said.

What would make this attempt work while others in the past didn’t is that it would include a large enough base of people, 300,000 Coloradans who aren’t insured, she said.

Insurance companies haven’t offered to create health insurance plans for an exchange in the past because there wasn’t a large enough pool of people who would pay premiums, Carroll said.

But Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said lawmakers shouldn’t buy into what the federal government is selling.

Even though the exchange would be operated by a state panel, it won’t be long before the federal government starts placing unfunded mandates on it, he said.

Mitchell said the nation doesn’t have a free-market health care system now, but one heavily controlled and regulated by government. Fixing it simply requires deregulation of the industry, he said.

“It’s not a surprise that business groups are clamoring for some kind of relief from the complexity and the high cost and the morass of government controls it has imposed on them,” he said. “What this bill represents is the false promise that this time, the federal government will make it simple. It defies credulity.”

The measure requires a final Senate vote, which could come as early as today.



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