By MATT SOPER

Like many people in western Colorado, I am grateful for the health-care services we have and the scores of dedicated doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical professionals who serve our communities. Concurrently, I also believe we pay way too much health insurance.

I am tired of hearing that more government involvement in health care is the answer. More government is NOT the solution!

A decade ago, the federal government made a complete mess of the insurance sector — especially the non-group health plans that many Western Slope households rely upon. The disastrous passage and implementation of Obamacare promoted regulation over innovation, driving choice and competition out of the market in areas of the country that needed it the most.

The status quo is unacceptable — we need to repair the damage caused by Obamacare and develop smart, free-enterprise solutions to bring choice, competition and lower prices to the health-care sector. But don’t be fooled by progressive Democrats, who are trying to use the failure of Obamacare as an excuse to pass new government programs that will only make Obamacare worse.

This is what Gov. Jared Polis, Rep. Dylan Roberts and Sen. Kerry Donovan are doing right now with their so-called “Colorado Option.”

Their bill, HB-1349, heard Wednesday in House Health and Insurance Committee, is the Colorado version of the “public option” you keep hearing Democrats talk about at the national level. If this bill passes, the Polis administration will design its own health plan, set premiums well below what the private sector could sustain, and force insurance companies to sell this product.

The state-controlled health plan would also pay hospitals much less for treating patients than private insurance companies do. These reimbursement rates for hospital treatments and procedures wouldn’t be negotiated — the administration would dictate those prices instead.

To make sure hospitals go along with the state plan, HB-1349 would allow the administration to revoke the license of any facility that refuses to participate. And on top of the threat of closure, hospitals would be subjected to punitive fines for every single day they resist Polis’s political agenda for health care in Colorado.

The impact on Colorado hospitals, especially in rural areas, would be catastrophic! It is estimated the public option would cut the budgets of four out of every five hospitals; with 23 rural facilities already facing the threat of closure, the public option would be devastating to western Colorado!

By the way, this is what HB-1349 supporters call a “public-private partnership” between the government and health-care providers. If HB-1349 is a partnership, I’d hate to see what the bill’s sponsors would call a mandate!

Deceptive labeling is just the beginning. For months, supporters of the Colorado option have known they cannot deliver on its central promise — lowering the cost of insurance for most people in the non-group insurance market.

Last year, a report authored by Colorado Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway and Kim Bimestefer, executive director of the Colorado Department of Healthcare Policy and Financing, determined the public option would interfere with the Obamacare marketplace and force many households to pay higher, not lower, premiums. The report found “subsidized members who choose to remain in their current plan, rather than switching to the public option would see an increase in their net premium after subsidy.”

A follow-up analysis, released by the Polis administration, also warned these households “could pay higher premiums under the Colorado Health Insurance Option as the reduction in their premium subsidy reduces their buying power.” The only solution offered was throwing tens of millions of dollars at the problem and hoping the federal government will agree to pick up the tab, instead of Colorado taxpayers.

Amazing, isn’t it? Polis and his supporters in the Legislature actually found a way to make Obamacare much, much worse. Instead of avoiding that outcome, they are aggressively pushing legislation to make it happen, even if it means mandating and threatening the entire health-care sector into submission. It’s time for citizens to stand up to these progressive policies which will devastate Colorado.

Matt Soper represents House District 54 in the Colorado House of Representatives, which includes Mesa and Delta Counties. Rep. Soper sits on the House Health & Insurance Committee and the All-Payer Claims Database Board of Directors.

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