It would be all too easy to cast this year’s legislative session in a politicized partisan light, because it has been a challenging session for legislators in the Democratic-led Senate and the Republican-controlled House. But last week, Governor Hickenlooper signed a budget that took months of negotiations and required compromise from both parties. In addition, lawmakers of both parties passed a significant piece of legislation to establish a health insurance exchange in Colorado.
A health insurance exchange is a health insurance marketplace – a “one-stop shop” where families and businesses can find health insurance plans that fit their needs. The exchange will be voluntary for individuals and families. They will be able to choose from a selection of plans and find out if they qualify for subsidies provided in the federal health care reform law passed in 2010.
In addition to Colorado, four states have passed legislation to establish exchanges and are awaiting governors’ signatures (Hawaii, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington). Four others – California, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia – have already enacted laws to establish state exchanges, and an exchange in Indiana was established by executive order of the governor. Massachusetts and Utah have state exchanges that were implemented before national health reform.
Last week, however, legislators from both parties found common ground on principles of free markets and public interest, and voted together to create this new entity designed to provide Coloradans with more options for affordable health insurance.
In both the exchange and the budget, Colorado lawmakers showed that they can work through political differences to provide essential services for Colorado citizens, which is important to remember when partisanship seems to dominate the headlines.
To learn about the Colorado Health Insurance Exchange on Twitter, follow @JoanHenneberry or use the hashtag #cohiex.