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The 2013 Session: Health Care Trends

January 11, 2013

The 2013 legislative session is off and running, and here at the Colorado Health Institute, we are happy to be back in action at the Capitol, helping policymakers to make informed decisions on important health care policy issues.

Legislators are sure to face a multitude of complex and controversial issues this session – everything from gun control and civil unions to child welfare reform and marijuana regulation. Yet health care is also likely to be a big topic. 

At the outset of every legislative session, CHI does its best to predict the major health policy trends that will emerge.  Here are our thoughts for 2013:

  • Medicaid Expansion: Likely to be the biggest – and possibly the most controversial – health care policy issue. Colorado must decide whether to expand Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of federal poverty level in conjunction with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Governor Hickenlooper announced last week his intention to expand Medicaid, and several Democratic lawmakers have voiced their enthusiastic support of that plan. Yet when the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing presented to the joint House and Senate health committees yesterday, several Republicans expressed concerns about the long-term financing.  (Hickenlooper has stated that he can fund the expansion without using any General Fund dollars through cost savings efforts within the program.) Meanwhile, Sen. David  Balmer, R-Centennial, introduced a bill that would prohibit using K-12 funding to fund any portion of Medicaid expansion (although these monies have not yet been proposed as a funding source). Although it is still uncertain exactly what role the legislature will play in deciding whether to expand Medicaid eligibility, it is clear that this will be a major topic of discussion.
  • Federal Health Care Reform Implementation: As the Affordable Care Act moves forward, many of the nuts and bolts of implementing the federal law will be left to the states.  Within Colorado, some believe that our state insurance laws will need to be reconciled with the new federal requirements of the ACA. (For example, eliminating the lifetime coverage limit.) We expect the Division of Insurance to bring legislation that would “harmonize” current state insurance statutes with the new mandates of the ACA, enabling Colorado to maintain regulatory oversight of insurance plans when the ACA is fully implemented.
  • Behavioral and Oral Health: Governor Hickenlooper has several proposals to expand mental and oral health services, many of which would require legislative action. The governor proposes adding a capped dental benefit for adults covered by Medicaid, as well as expanded Medicaid coverage for substance abuse disorders. He outlined a far-reaching plan to expand mental health services, proposing to update the state’s commitment statutes, which could lower the threshold for committing a patient involuntarily. We expect to see several bills on oral and mental health this session.  

Other health care legislation to watch for: A bill establishing a health care co-op within Colorado, a bill eliminating the three-month waiting period for the Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) program and a universal vaccine purchase bill to let the state purchase vaccines in bulk and distribute them to individual providers.

We’ll be tracking all the important health care bills closely throughout the session, and we will provide you with regular updates on the latest health care policies being debated at the Capitol. It promises to be an exciting session!