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Connect for Health Colorado Works Toward Sustainability; New Bills Keep Coming at the Capitol

Legislators turned their attention to Connect for Health Colorado on January 21 when the marketplace’s leaders presented their annual report to a joint meeting of all three health committees.

Connect for Health Colorado needs to generate more revenue to make the health insurance marketplace sustainable. The organization’s leaders are talking to the state and federal governments about getting reimbursement for the new Medicaid clients that Connect for Health Colorado’s website has funneled to the state.

“We are close, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” said Connect for Health CEO Kevin Patterson.

The hearing was the highlight of action in health policy so far in this young legislative session, but the year is just getting under way.

The bill count is up to nearly 240, which isn’t surprising since all 100 legislators must by now have introduced at least two of their pieces of legislation. New health-related bills introduced since our last blog:

House Bill 1148 would give the Legislative Health Benefit Exchange Oversight Committee greater authority over policies proposed by Connect for Health Colorado. The bill would give legislators power over awarding contracts, regulating brokers and compensating consumer assistance professionals. Despite gaining bipartisan support in both chambers, it has been assigned to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee – known primarily as a “kill committee.” One of its Senate sponsors is Ellen Roberts (R), the chair of the Oversight Committee.

HB 1142 proposes creating a new tax credit (capped at $1,000 per year) for rural primary care preceptors who train students. Preceptors mentor graduate students studying to become primary care providers through instruction, training and supervision. Up to 300 health professionals would be allowed to claim the tax credit annually. It is sponsored by three Republicans and one Democrat. The bill has been assigned to the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee, as well as to House Finance.

• And HB 1146 is a flashpoint bill that is returning from 2015. The bill, backed by House Republicans, seeks to define a fetus or infant as “born alive” regardless of the stage of development. It would apply to natural births, cesarean sections and abortions and represents another priority of the “personhood” movement. Like HB 1148, it is headed to House State, Veterans and Military Affairs, a sign of the Democratic leadership’s disapproval.

Senate Bill 39 is the first of our tracked bills to advance out of either chamber. On January 26, the bill – with bipartisan sponsors in Sen. Linda Newell (D) and Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R) – passed its third and final reading in the Senate with unanimous approval. It would add mental health professionals to the teams providing collaborative services for at-risk children and families. The sponsors believe it will help prevent youth from ending up in the criminal justice system.

Upcoming bill hearings that we’ll be watching this week:

On Thursday, January 28, the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee will hear SB 15, concerning the use of pesticides in retail marijuana. The bill, which would replace the current list of pesticides that cannot be used by growers with a list of those that can, has bipartisan support.

Two bills of interest are on the agenda that day for Senate Health and Human Services. The committee will consider SB 69 (which seeks to regulate community paramedics through the Department of Public Health and Environment) and SB 2 (which would ask voters in November to approve Connect for Health Colorado’s current fee structure). Connect for Health Colorado charges a fee on each policy sold on and off the marketplace. The bill’s Republican sponsors believe the fees should be viewed as a tax and therefore should be subject to voters’ approval.

Senior Communications Expert Joe hanel contributed to this post.