Yesterday, Colorado Governor Bill Ritter outlined the details of his proposal that will provide health insurance coverage for at least 100,000 uninsured Coloradans. It’s fitting that the venue for his press conference was Denver Health, a hospital that has been especially hard hit by the cost of providing healthcare to uninsured patients.
Ritter and Colorado lawmakers have been working on HB 1293 (the Colorado Healthcare Affordability Act) since mid 2008. Although it’s rarely possible to please everyone with any new legislation, it does appear that HB 1293 has at least a measure of support from many sides, including most hospitals, the Colorado Association of Health Plans, and health insurers Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and United Healthcare.
The plan would involve charging a fee to Colorado hospitals which would generate about $600 million in revenue for the program. That would then be matched by $600 million in federal funds. The $1.2 billion generated will be used to expand Medicaid, the Colorado Indigent Care Program, and Children’s Health Plan Plus (CHP+), allowing more people to qualify for and enroll in the programs.
I like the approach of expanding current programs, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel. All of the administrative systems are already in place for programs like Medicaid and CHP+. Increasing the income limits and enrolling more people doesn’t require additional infrastructure or administrative changes. Working within our current framework, but with expanded enrollment, seems to be an efficient way of going about this process. It’s also probably the quickest way to actually get health insurance coverage to Colorado residents who need it.
There are currently 800,000 uninsured people in Colorado, so obviously this bill won’t solve all of our problems. But it will be a start. And hospitals like Denver Health, where a huge number of uninsured patients are treated, should find it a bit easier to stay afloat.