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Budget Season Nears, Drug Pricing Bill Stalls

We are inching closer to March – even though it feels like May outside. And that means we’re awaiting the new state revenue forecast and the Long Bill (a.k.a. the state budget). We’ll likely hear more about the Hospital Provider Fee as well.

According to a legal memo published by the Colorado Hospital Association last week, it would be constitutional to convert the Provider Fee to an enterprise fund and therefore remove it from the TABOR revenue cap. Republican leadership remains unmoved following the new memo, which contradicts a legal opinion they had obtained last month.

Yesterday, we watched a long hearing for House Bill 1102, which would direct drug manufacturers to submit a report to the Colorado Commission on Affordable Health Care for any drug available in Colorado that costs at least $50,000 per year. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joann Ginal (D), was up in the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee and drew testimony from pharmaceutical companies, consumers and others.

Some advocates supported the bill, saying that price transparency is the first step in lowering drug prices. But drag manufacturers expressed concern about submitting potentially proprietary information. Witnesses also raised concerns about the bill’s proposed timeline.

After more than four hours, the committee moved to lay over the bill, delaying the vote. Ginal said she was willing to consider objections and return to the committee with amendments. Stay tuned for updates.

Votes of note from the past week:

Four bills we were watching failed in committee. The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee killed two of them. HB 1137, which proposed requiring warning labels on any product containing nicotine, such as e-cigarettes, failed on a 12-1 vote. Though several amendments were adopted and the bill was supported by groups including Denver Public Health, the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the state Department of Public Health and Environment, concerns won out. HB 1113, which would have made abortion a Class 1 felony for doctors — punishable by life in prison or the death sentence —also went down on a 7-6 party-line vote.

The House Business Affairs and Labor Committee voted 8-4 to indefinitely postpone HB 1007, which sought to categorize fetuses as people when they are crime victims and allow prosecutors to file charges if a fetus is killed or injured. And Senate Bill 42, which would have made immunity more broadly available for people who report an emergency drug or alcohol overdose, failed in the Senate Judiciary Committee by a margin of 3-1.

Two bills passed out of committee. HB 1142 would create a new tax credit capped at $1,000 per year for up to 300 rural primary care preceptors who train students. The preceptors instruct, train and supervise graduate students who are studying to become primary care providers. The House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee members gave it their seal of approval by a vote of 10-2, and it’s up next in House Finance.

SB 120, which would require the state to develop an explanation of benefits and new educational materials for Medicaid enrollees, cleared the Senate Health and Human Services committee by a 4-1 margin. The committee also passed HB 1095, a non-controversial bill that would allow for more frequent refills on prescription eye drops.

And a group of bills were successful in passing out of their first chamber. The Senate advanced four bills that will go next to the House.

SB 6, which would refer all new Connect for Health Colorado customers to brokers, has already been assigned to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, where it faces an uncertain future. SB 27, which would give Medicaid enrollees the option to get their prescription drugs by mail, is through after passing the Appropriations Committee 7-0 and getting approval from the full Senate. SB 94, which aims to give rural counties more flexibility in allocating funding in their district public health agencies, also passed a committee (Health and Human Services) unanimously before moving on from the Senate floor. Last but not least: SB 90, which would give the state the option to change from collecting marijuana data at the county level to aggregating it at the regional level, passed Senate Appropriations 6-1 and then moved through the chamber.

An amended HB 1148, which would give the Exchange Oversight Committee greater authority over policies proposed by Connect for Health Colorado, passed the full House after getting unanimous approval from the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. SB 15, which would clarify what kinds of pesticides are allowed in marijuana cultivation, breezed through the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on a 12-0 vote and is on its way to the governor for signature after passing its second chamber.

We’ll be keeping an eye on a handful of upcoming votes.

Today, the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee hears HB 1079, which asks to create a state-approved label for marijuana grown without pesticides, similar to organic food.

Next week, the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee will consider SB 118, a bill that would require the state to adopt a screening questionnaire for prenatal substance use, while House Finance will hear HB 1065, which would create a home services tax credit for seniors. The Committee turned a similar bill down last year. The House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee will listen to HB 1164, a bill with bipartisan support that proposes to have the state review requests for student immunization exemptions, rather than students’ schools. The committee will also consider HB 1195, which hopes to expand the availability of qualified home modification services to more people with disabilities.

The first House floor vote for HB 1054, which would enact the Colorado End-of-life Options Act, continues to be pushed back on the calendar. Tensions are high around this bill and lots of behind-the-scenes work is happening as legislators decide whether they can support it. We’ll see if a vote happens this month. And HB 1063, which would allow mental health professionals to disclose concerns about a client if that client makes or implies threats against a school, is on deck for its final vote early next week after getting a unanimous thumbs-up in House Judiciary.

In terms of new bills on our radar, there’s not much.

We’ll be watching another bill about the use of pesticides in marijuana, which seems to be a hot topic this session. HB 1266 would allow the state to seize and destroy any marijuana that contains unauthorized pesticides. SB 127 would repeal a 2010 Act that established the Medical Clean Claims Task Force. And SB 135 proposes to allow health benefit plans to cover services provided by pharmacists as long as they meet certain requirements, such as having a Colorado license and at least five years of experience in the field.