Health care exchange proposal clears Senate, faces test in House

DENVER — The real test on a bill to create a health care exchange in the state soon will begin now that the Colorado Senate has approved the idea.

That happened Wednesday when the Senate approved SB200 on a 20–15 party-line vote, with every Republican senator voting against it.

But that GOP opposition doesn’t necessarily signal the Republican-controlled House will oppose it, too. That’s because the idea is being sponsored there by House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Colorado Springs.

In the Senate, Republicans argued that the measure was being forced on the state because of last year’s controversial federal health care reform bill.

“We’re told that we have to take this step because the federal bill is the law of the land. That is very much in dispute,” said Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield. “It’s a law that is rejected by a majority opinion of the public. It’s a law that was voted to be repealed by the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s a law that has been declared unconstitutional by three United States district courts.”

Democrats rejected GOP attempts to make the bill effective only if the federal Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act is upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, where legal challenges against it are headed.

They said placing that condition on the bill isn’t necessary because the program isn’t reliant on the federal law, an assertion Republicans rejected.

The measure is designed to create a new marketplace for insurance companies to offer more affordable medical plans to people who currently aren’t covered. Democrats have argued that such ideas have been tried before and failed because insurers had no guarantee there would be a sufficient pool of people to buy into a plan. This idea is better, they said, because the federal law would cover the premiums of 300,000 low-income Coloradans who have no insurance.

But Democrats now say the program can survive even if those uninsured people don’t get federal assistance.

“(The bill) creates an opportunity for potentially many more customers in the exchange for those insurers who choose to participate,” said Sen. Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, who introduced the measure with Stephens. “The exchange can live regardless of what happens with the federal law.”

Democrats also said numerous business groups, including the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado chapter of the National Federation of Small Businesses, have endorsed the idea of creating an exchange.



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