Bill offers temporary help to get health insurance coverage

DENVER — It’s only a temporary fix, but a bill approved in the Colorado House on Monday may bring some needed help for the state’s poorest residents to get health care coverage over the next year.

Under HB1235, which the House approved on a bipartisan 42-22 vote, people who live in the three areas of the state that have the highest health insurance costs — the Western Slope, the Eastern Plains and the San Luis Valley — could qualify for state aid in paying their premiums.

The money, about $13.2 million this year and $6.6 million in 2018, would only go to those people whose annual income is more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level and pay more than 15 percent of that income on premiums.

The aid program only lasts until 2018, in part, because of uncertainty over what will happen to the Affordable Care Act.

“This is short-term relief for people who are suffering from pretty extreme inequities between rural and urban Colorado,” said Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, who introduced the measure with Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon.

“People in my district are paying sometimes four times as much for the same insurance policy as families on the Front Range, and they can’t afford it,” added Hamner, whose district includes the eastern half of Delta County.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where it is being shepherded by Sens. Don Coram, R-Montrose, Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, and Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, whose district also includes Delta County.

The bill heads to the Senate for more debate.

CONTRACEPTION

Women who are taking contraceptives won’t have to go to the pharmacy as often as they do now under a bill headed to the governor’s desk.

That measure, HB1186, requires insurance companies that are mandated to supply women with certain contraceptions to allow them to get three month’s worth the first time, and enough for an entire year thereafter.

The idea is to help women have the birth control they need to avoid pregnancies, the bill’s sponsors said.

“When we increase access to contraception, we reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancies,” said Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, who sponsored the bill along with Reps. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, and Lois Landgraf, R-Fountain. “In rural Colorado, it is often miles to the nearest pharmacy. Living in a contraceptive desert not only increases the likelihood of unplanned pregnancies, it also condemns more folks to a cycle of poverty.”

Despite bipartisan support for the measure, 11 Republican senators voted against it, including Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, whose district includes Garfield County.


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