DENVER — Health care groups outside the Colorado Capitol aren't wasting any time pressing lawmakers to pass bills designed to lower the cost of medical insurance premiums.

Lawmakers this year are considering several bills designed to do that, some that Republicans have routinely killed when they were in control of the Colorado Senate.

But with Democrats now in charge of both chambers, many of those measures have returned, and a few more that some say are a precursor to universal health care, something Gov. Jared Polis said is inevitable.

A measure that stops short of that, HB1004, has already been introduced by two Western Slope lawmakers, Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, and Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail.

The bill, which also has support from one Republican — Rep. Marc Catlin of Montrose — calls for creating a so-called public option, something several other states also are eyeballing.

Unlike full-fledged universal or single-payer health care plans, where the government provides medical coverage, a public option plan, also called a state option, creates a government-run health insurance company.

The idea was first considered in 2010 when Congress approved the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, but was removed before the bill passed.

Colorado and other states already do that in other insurance areas, such as Pinnacol Assurance, which is a quasi-governmental insurance company that provides workers' compensation coverage to businesses. That company was created by the Colorado Legislature in 1915 because no other insurance provider was providing workers' compensation insurance.

Supporters say the time has come to do the same for general medical coverage because of the rising cost of health care, particularly in high-cost areas such as the Western Slope.

"Affording health care costs has become increasingly difficult for many rural and mountain counties in Colorado," said Jake Williams, executive director of Healthier Colorado. "We must work to address these high costs so every Coloradan, regardless of their socioeconomic status, has an equal opportunity to succeed."

In his State of the State address to the Colorado Legislature last week, Polis said addressing health care costs would be good not only for those who can't afford coverage, but also for businesses that are finding it increasingly too expensive to provide it to their workers.

"Our ultimate objective is to bring universal, high-quality, affordable care to every Colorado family," Polis said. "We know that won't happen overnight, but the work we will do together in this legislative session will put us on the right path and bring us closer to our goal."

The bill hasn't yet been scheduled for its first committee hearing.