The landscape of health care in Colorado could change during this legislative session in Denver and hospitals may feel the brunt of some possible new laws.
Five bills that could become law this year would require hospitals to submit an expenditure report, create a state reinsurance program to aid in paying high-cost claims and allow anyone to buy into a more affordable insurance program.
Club 20 winter policy committee meeting attendees last week took in the basics of some of these new proposals during a presentation from Joe Hanel, managing director of communications for the Colorado Health Institute, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that supports the health care community.
Hanel said hospitals are "in the crosshairs" in some of these bills, which new Gov. Jared Polis and a Democratic-controlled House and Senate have targeted to pass this session.
"Polis is picking low-hanging fruit in the 2019 session," Hanel said. "He wants early wins."
One bill — HB19-1001 — focuses on hospital transparency and would require hospitals to reveal financial statements, operating expenses and staffing expenses. The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing would have to put together a report detailing uncompensated hospital costs and different categories of expenditures. This bill has passed through the House and is currently in the Senate.
The second bill — HB19-1168 — proposes the creation of a state reinsurance program to help insurers recoup dollars on high-cost claims. It also allows the state commissioner of insurance to apply for waivers or federal funding to help pay for this.
The bill has bipartisan sponsors in Republicans Janice Rich and Bob Rankin and Democrats Kerry Donovan and Julie McCluskie. All four represent western Colorado communities.
Hanel said the bill has promised to cut costs 30 percent on the Western Slope. The bill recently went from the House Committee on Health and Insurance to Appropriations.
"It empowers the Division of Insurance," Hanel said of the bill.
Three other bills address issues such as starting a state option for affordable health care, disclosing wholesale prices for prescription drugs and looking at out of network prices.
Locally, Community Hospital President and CEO Chris Thomas and St. Mary's Medical Center President Brian Davidson have followed the legislation closely. While both feel the transparency bill may have some merits, both have issues with the reinsurance proposal.
"We at Community feel it could be a huge opportunity. It could finally highlight the cost of care at Community and shed some light on some inequities in the system," Thomas said of the transparency bill. "It's a great first step, but there is a lot more to do to educate the public on what to look for and what questions to ask."
Davidson has concerns regarding the way hospitals submit data for transparency.
"In general, transparency is good," he said. "One of the issues we've had with this is it's difficult to make sure every single organization reports things exactly the same."
In addressing reinsurance, Thomas said the fine print indicates the lower costs will be paid for on the backs of providers. He also had concerns on how the commissioner of insurance would set rates.
"It's alarming to have that authority," Thomas said.
Davidson said the bill would hurt hospitals and protect insurance companies.
"We are not in the insurance industry, but if this bill passes, we will be. We will have all of it passed along to us in government price setting," he said. "I think it will make Colorado unattractive place to practice medicine."