Local health care providers, insurers, business owners and residents had their chance to weigh in on what a state health insurance option might look like in Colorado.

Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway was in Grand Junction on Wednesday to gather feedback on what locals might like to see from a state option for health insurance before his office and the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing forms a proposal for a program.

The Division of Insurance and Department of Health Care Policy and Financing is tasked with coming up with a recommendation for a new program by Nov. 15. Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed HB19-1004, a bipartisan bill that calls on the two organizations to investigate a competitive state option.

Conway and others are touring the state and will start working on a proposal in September. They will come back to the public in October before finalizing a recommendation.

"We want these meetings to frame out what (the state option) should be," Conway said during a two-hour meeting at the Mesa County Workforce Center.

The goals of the proposal are to provide a high-quality option, address the uninsured rate, leverage existing infrastructure and increase competition without placing a heavy burden on the state.

Some concerns discussed by attendees include addressing who should be covered by the state option, provider shortages on the Western Slope and the possibility that extra burdens could fall to the commercial market and hurt small employers.

Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Diane Schwenke asked at the meeting that the plan do no harm and fears it could have a negative impact for small business insurers.

Others said the plan needed to address the underinsured who have insurance, but often can't afford to use it due to a high deductible. Talks also touched on hospital transparency on prices and the fiscal sustainability of a state option.

The bill had three western Colorado sponsors, including State Rep. Marc Catlin, a Montrose Republican. Catlin attended the workshop and urged people to stay engaged throughout the process. Democrats Dylan Roberts and Kerry Donovan were Catlin's co-sponsors.

"This is letting people have an opportunity to say what is wrong and what can be done to fix it," Catlin said.

The state will likely adopt any proposal put forth by the Division of Insurance and Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, unless the state legislature adopts a bill to stop the effort, Conway said.

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